Clippers still searching for consistent defensive identity

6 Comments

The Clippers lost to the Hawks because of their defense on Wednesday night — the Hawks shot 51 percent as a team overall, hit 12-of-23 from three, were able to get more than a third of their shots inside 8 feet and shot 64.3 percent on them. The Clippers starting five had a horrible defensive rating of 118.2 points per 100 possessions.

The Clippers defense hasn’t been strong all season (currently 21st in the league in points allowed per possession) but it’s been a work in progress. And one that at times has shown progress.

Then there is the step back like Wednesday. Chris Paul and Blake Griffin talked about the search for defensive cohesion Wednesday after the game, as reported by ESPNLosAngeles.com.

“We got to find a defensive identity,” Paul said. “That starts with us in the locker room. We know what we do. We just got to do it. We’ve got to stop talking about it and we have to figure out how to stop teams.”

“I thought yesterday we had a great defensive practice and covered all the things we messed up on tonight,” Griffin said. “We slipped but hopefully we’re not slipping. … It’s very frustrating. It’s frustrating just to lose a game but to lose in the manner we lost tonight. We’ve got to do something different.”

The Clippers regular starting five —which we did not see Wednesday and will not for a while until J.J. Redick returns from surgery to repair torn ligaments in his hand — has a respectable 101.6 defensive rating (that would be 12th in the league). But once you start to reach into the Clipper bench the numbers worsen quickly.

For example, sub Willie Green in for Redick — as the Clippers are doing now to start games — and their defensive rating jumps to 116 (granted, in a small sample size of 30 minutes). The numbers are not that dramatic but you see it across the board, the bench is not holding up well on defense most of the time.

It’s a process. The Clippers have a season to figure it out; their stellar offense will carry them to a good playoff seed. Rivers gets that.

“We’re not there,” Rivers said. “I was disappointed in our 3-point defense because that’s one area we had cleaned up. Maybe I have to make an adjustment. I don’t think we played the game with a lot of force. … They’ll get it. It’s early in the season.”

Maybe. But fixing this may fall more on the front office and its deadline moves than it does on Rivers and the guys in the locker room.