Author: Kurt Helin

San Antonio Spurs v Los Angeles Clippers

Clippers’ perimeter defense an issue that is not going away


It’s been a hot topic around Southern California and the league: What is going on with the 4-3 Clippers? They haven’t looked like contenders, and they haven’t looked like the dangerous team they were at the end of the playoffs last year.

Critics can talk about execution down the stretch, and the Clippers certainly lacked that in their loss to the Spurs Monday. They can talk about the team playing flat and without energy, and that is certainly true for long stretches. They can talk about poor offensive execution, and the Clippers are down 5.4 points per 100 possessions on offense from their league high last season. They can talk about Blake Griffin taking too many jumpers, although on Monday he made a point of getting back inside. All of that is true.

But none of that is the Clippers’ biggest problem.

The most concerning issue is their perimeter defense — and there’s no easy fix for this leak.

Monday night in the Clippers latest loss, the Spurs stepped away from their title-winning motion offense as much as they have any night in recent memory because they knew that Jamal Crawford couldn’t handle Kawhi Leonard on the perimeter. Gregg Popovich said he called Leonard’s number more than he has at any time in the Finals MVP’s young career and Leonard responded with 26 points. It was key to the Spurs winning the game.

When it quickly became clear Crawford was in way over his head, DeAndre Jordan started coming over early to the strong side to help cut off those drives, but that set off a series of slow or missed Clippers’ defensive rotations that left key Spurs open for good looks — if San Antonio hadn’t shot 9-of-36 on uncontested shots in this game, it would have been another ugly loss for the Clippers. Most nights it would have been.

And Doc Rivers knows it. Postgame he was asked if the open looks the Spurs got and the loss showed the danger of trying to play J.J. Redick and Crawford together so much. His response?


Rivers felt he had to insert Crawford into the starting lineup because Matt Barnes is shooting 31 percent from three this season and isn’t spacing the floor. And Crawford does help the offense — the Clippers eFG% jumps from 46.1 to 53.1 percent when he is on the floor, and the Clippers score 9.1 points more per 100 possessions than when Crawford sits. What may be more worrying is the Clippers defense is better when he is on the court too, despite how teams just line up to go at him.

“We don’t have that one guy. I’m not going to tell Matt, ‘I need you to go stop LeBron.’ I’m not going to tell Chris that or J.J. or Jamal or Reggie [Bullock],” Rivers said after the game. “It’s going to have to be a team effort, and we knew that coming into the season….

“It’s not anything I’m going to lose sleep over. It would be great. I would be a lot smarter coaching-wise if we had something like that, but we don’t. We have what we have.”

So far the team effort Rivers needs has fallen well short.

What the Clippers would love to do is trade for that defensive stopper on the wing. Good luck. The entire league wants one of those. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports said Thursday on the Clippers flagship radio station in Los Angeles The Beast 980 the team had called around the league looking to trade for a wing, but came up empty. The bigger problem was even if a quality wing defender were available the Clippers don’t have another player to trade that wouldn’t just create another hole in the roster and another problem. They are not rich with trade assets.

Of course, it’s not all on the wings. Sure, Crawford and Redick (and Barnes the way he played) have not stayed in front of their men, but the Clippers were counting on DeAndre Jordan to clean up a lot of those messes, yet opposing teams are shooting 63.7 percent inside 5 feet of the rim against the Clippers, the second highest percentage in the league (only the Suns are worse). They have not had great rim protection.

But if they dream of playing with the Spurs or the other elite teams in the West, they are going to need better perimeter defense. One way or another. It’s just not going to be a simple fix.

Andre Iguodala goes coast-to-coast for monster dunk on Nets

Brooklyn Nets v Golden State Warriors
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Rule No. 1 of transition defense: Stop the ball.

Nobody got in Andre Iguodala’s way on this play Thursday night and so he went coast-to-coast for a monster dunk.

The Warriors won 107-99, but it wasn’t a big night for Iguodala who had five points on eight shots in 32 minutes. The Nets players kept getting between him and the basket, expect on this play.

PBT’s Thursday night NBA Winners/Losers: Grizzlies’ guards getting it done

Sacramento Kings v Memphis Grizzlies

Every night the NBA can be a cold hard reality — there are winners, there are losers. It’s the nature of the game. We know you are busy and can’t keep up with every game, so we’re here to bring you the best and worst of the NBA each week night. Here’s what you missed while keeping your girlfriend away from soft plastics….

source:  The Memphis Grizzlies’ guards. So far this season the Grizzlies have largely won in spite of their guards, not because of them. Not tonight, they keyed a come-from-behind win where they started out down 26. Mike Conley had 11 fourth quarter, points, Vince Carter finally showed up hit three from beyond the arc in the quarter,and then Courtney Lee made the play of the game.

source:  Sacramento Kings. Tough loss. They didn’t lose this one on a last second tip play (although the Kings’ defense did break down on it) nor because of the officials on a close play. No, they lost this one when they led by 26 in the second quarter and 15 at the start of the fourth quarter and couldn’t hold the lead. Sacramento shot 38.9 percent in the fourth quarter, with Rudy Gay going 0-of-3 and Darren Collison going 1-of-4. This is a young team still learning how to win, and there are going to be rough patches. This is one of those.

source:  Pau Gasol. He is playing the best basketball we have seen from him since the “I’m an All-Star and the Lakers are contenders” years. We saw it again on Thursday night as he put up 27 points on 19 shots plus pulled down 11 boards against the Raptors in a game where the Bulls looked like the best team in the East. Gasol was 9-of-13 inside 8 feet of the rim — Tom Thibodeau is using him like a post player, not trying to force him to be a stretch four like Mike D’Antoni too often did. Gasol also defended — the Raptors were 3-of-12 shooting at the rim when he was protecting it. He is a great fit for this team and after spending the summer with his friends on the Spanish national team you can see his passion for the game is rekindled.

source:  Philadelphia 76ers. Hey Michael Carter-Williams, welcome back to the NBA. I think we all understand the strategy Sam Hinkie is employing. And maybe — maybe — we’ll look back on this in five years as worth it because the Sixers will have a team stockpiled with talent. But good lord are they atrocious now. They are the Medusa of the NBA, watch just part of their game and you’ll turn to stone. I feel for Sixers fans. Their team trailed Dallas 73-29 at the half — if Dallas had not scored the entire second half they still would have won the game by three (the final was 123-70). The Sixers shot 51.5 percent for the game — from the free throw line. From the field it was 29.9 percent. Ugly. Again, I get the strategy, but being this bad is just not good for the league and it’s got to just wear down the fan base.

Derrick Rose calls hamstring injury “minor,” a “cramp”


Derrick Rose left another game with an injury, this time a left hamstring issue that came up in the fourth quarter of the Bulls win over the Raptors. After the game, while Rose wasn’t quite as colorful with his language as Joakim Noah, he did say this was no big deal, as you can see from the video above (courtesy

“I had cramps in my hamstrings but I think it’s minor. They decided to pull me out, so they left it like that.”

“It feels like just cramps. I sat out, we got a good team, we had the game we were up 10 by then so I was fortunate.”

Rose said it’s too early to know if he will be able to play Saturday when the Bulls host the Pacers.

The Bulls as an organization are treating Rose with an abundance of caution. To put it kindly. I think they covered every sharp corner in his house with bubble wrap. It is very possible he sits out a game or four if he is anything short of 100 percent. That’s what they’ve done in regards to his ankles. Rose has talked about wanting to be healthy for life after basketball (and there’s not anything wrong with that) but Tom Thibodeau and the organization know when they really need him right is the playoffs, because with him they’re contenders (they did just knock off the team with the best record in the East Thursday).

PBT Extra: Can Memphis, Houston sustain hot starts?

New Orleans Pelicans v Memphis Grizzlies New Orleans Pelicans v Memphis Grizzlies New Orleans Pelicans v Memphis Grizzlies

Earlier this week we talked surprises out East, now it’s time for Jenna Corrado and I to focus on the West in the latest PBT Extra.

Memphis’ grit and grind brought playoff basketball to the regular season — and it works. They are 7-1. So long as Marc Gasol stays healthy and they keep defending they are going to win games at a nice clip, but they need Vince Carter to find his shot because their bench is woeful.

Houston has looked good early behind the best defense in the NBA so far, plus James Harden is putting up 25+ a game. They are good. They also have played just three likely playoff teams in those eight games so far (going 2-1), you can’t feast on the Lakers and Sixers forever. Their tests remain ahead of them.

And what about the Kings? They may be inconsistent but Sacramento fans can savor how much better they are than the Lakers.