Before the season, the “sailboats” were perceived as an interesting and promising, but rather theoretical team than a real team .
It was clear that the Clippers were building, since they had been building this for a long time. The composition, sharpened under the small five as the most important option. A space attack around two superstars. A defense with versatility fueled by a bunch of wingers. Things already familiar to many teams here are elevated to the absolute. Plus Zubats, if you suddenly need a center, and Wall/Jackson, if you suddenly need a small ballhandler, which is more important for the regular season, but for variability it will not hurt in the playoffs.
And in this format, everything should work as it were. However, only on paper. But in reality, there were questions about the health and shape of a number of performers, since the composition is both traumatic (primarily talking about leaders) and age (only the Bucks have a higher average age, and those under 25 in the Clippers minutes almost never get it).
The season turned out to be turbulent, a series of defeats alternated with successful stretches, the defensive team at the start of the season completely unfolds and reformatted into “we throw you as much as we want”, someone and the stars are often injured, rotations are constantly redrawn, including some people and eliminating others, and then rolling back back, one of the league’s most massive deadline rebuilds is now underway…
The Clippers are some kind of too mobile, constantly changing shape structure, the image of which is too difficult to capture.
But you have to try. BecauseThe Clippers just took 8 of 12 and are second only to Memphis, Denver and Sacramento in terms of wins in the West.. It seems that now we see just the Clippers that we expected before the season.
How do they play?
In the first part of the season, when the stars were injured, the Clippers had wild creative problems, the offense was one of the worst in the NBA, and they held on only because the defense worked at the highest level.
A lot has changed since then.Attack since December – when Lenard fully returned – in the top 10, and the defense rolled back to the middle of the table.
They didn’t force losses less often, they pick up even better in defense, the overall pace didn’t increase, Kawhi and George don’t seem to be a hole in defense, but now they play more than before.
So what’s up?
Statistically, the drawdown of defensive indicators rests on 2 factors: the implementation of the opponent from the field and the number of free throws of the opponent. The first factor is quite random: the Clippers’ rivals’ shooting diet has not changed much, the opponents’ share of open shots has also, but they have become much better at hitting. First of all, throws from under the basket (before December it was 62.6%, and since December – 68.8%) and three-pointers “on the forehead” (it was 34%, now 37.5% – the 4th indicator from the end in the NBA).
As for three-pointers: the indicator is really as random as possible, because the share of open and completely open three-pointers for the Clippers’ rivals is actually lower now than at the start of the season. That is, against them, more complex throws are better implemented. And then it remains only to work and wait for the mathematics to do its job.
As for the shots from under the ring, everything is more interesting. Here, firstly, we can say that after the return of Lenard, Zubac missed a couple of matches and, in general, began to play a couple of minutes less per match. This certainly should not have had a positive effect on the protection of the ring. Secondly, we see this progress in rebounding on our backboard, and this is often associated with implementation: the spotters have to choose whether to actively help under the basket or cut off their own from the backboard, and now the emphasis has shifted towards the latter. However, this is more of a theory than an observation. Because to the eye, the current Clippers defense looks more worthy. consistent and varied.
Globally, there are two options here, resting on the position of the toggle switch responsible for turning the center on / off.
When Zubac is on the floor, the Clippers, of course, play a safety net. Ivica plays below the level of the barrier, in some places retreating completely to the ring, the rest, as far as possible, also pull in to help inside.
The scheme is working against teams that are not so smooth with the throw. It is clear that the opponents throwing a ballhandler need to go high, and teams with a bunch of shooters will stretch the defense so that there will be no time to rotate there. But against an average team with an average quality of shooting potential, the drop is still the most popular defensive scheme in the NBA because it is simple and works like a regular game. Especially when, like the Clippers, you have a good rim protector, and there are no very small players who will die on the screens, giving the opponents’ ball handler a too open throw.
When Tooth sits down, the Clippers go to the small five (not always, because there is still an option to release Brown, and after the deadline, Plumley appeared). Small fives with versatile defenders play the exchange. It cannot be said that everything is smooth here. Mann and Powell are too small to switch to big forwards, while Morris and Kawhi are not very good at handling sharp defenders, which is part of the reason for the increase in fouls mentioned above. That is, it is difficult to imagine a composition where any player can successfully defend against any opponent player, even if there is no center among these opponents. There will be some problems here, the Warriors tried to hide Curry, and the Boston tried not to exchange the big ones for the same Curry, this is normal. It’s just that the Clippers’ small roster has noticeably more such problem areas.
However, this option is considered the main one in the playoffs, and the Clippers should make it work. Firstly, Eric Gordon was purchased for these purposes. He is supposed to be more versatile than Jackson, although I won’t pretend to see Gordon much this season. But Eric is giving another person to try as part of a defensive all-out five, and maybe this five will work better with him.
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