NBA PM: What’s Wrong with the Clippers?


What’s Wrong with the Clippers?

It’s been quite the week for the L.A. Clippers. The team left the confines of Hollywood over a week ago to start a six-game road trip and the results haven’t been good.

The team began the road trip with a perfect 6-0 record away from home and looked to be playing great basketball. That record improved to 7-0 with a win over the Dallas Mavericks last Wednesday, but the Clippers have since dropped their last three games in a row.

Over the course of the first month of the season, the Clippers established themselves as one of the best teams in the league and they have been fun to watch. The group has been healthy so far while getting huge contributions from its star players Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.

The Clippers are the only team in the league ranked inside the top five in both offensive and defensive efficiency. However, the team’s defense has looked much different on this road trip. After allowing 97.7 points per 100 possessions prior to the trip, that number has jumped up to 103.9 points per 100 possessions over the last four games.

Perhaps even more troubling than the defense has been the team’s offense. They were scoring 111.1 points per 100 possessions before the trip and have scored just 99.8 points per 100 possessions since hitting the road. They managed just 70 points on Sunday against an Indiana Pacers team that was missing Paul George.

Of course, there was also head coach Doc Rivers’ outburst on Tuesday night against the Brooklyn Nets that ended with Rivers getting tossed from the game after picking up two technical fouls. The Clippers lost that game to the Nets in double-overtime and allowed Nets guard Sean Kilpatrick to score 31 of his 38 points after the third quarter.

During the incident, Rivers was perhaps as animated as a head coach has been on the sidelines in quite some time. He was upset over a foul that was called on Brandon Bass near the end of the first overtime period. Following that foul, he was assessed a technical for crossing over midcourt. A second technical foul was given to him due to language directed toward a referee.

“I thought it was an awful tech,” Rivers said after the game. “Honestly, I think you guys know why the tech was called. The official, who had nothing to do with the play, thought I was yelling at Lauren [Holtkamp] and I wasn’t. We weren’t. She said I was right and let’s walk back. We weren’t even arguing. It was the damndest tech to give at that time.”

Rivers’ ejection was the exclamation point on a bad loss. Coming into that game, the Nets had lost seven games in a row and suffered a 127-95 loss to the Clippers just two weeks prior. In Tuesday night’s game, the Clippers were up by as many as 18 points in the third quarter and then stopped executing plays. The Nets outscored the Clippers 34-21 in the fourth quarter.

“I thought we lost our respect for the game,” Rivers said. “I thought we lost our humility. I thought we were playing great. We got up. We got cool. We stopped moving the ball. We went ShowTime and I think when that happens you deserve to lose the game. I really do. Champions have humility throughout the game and I thought we lost that as a group.

“Tonight, we got ‘good’ all of a sudden. We were walking around like we’ve done something and that bothers me because we haven’t done crap. For us to walk around against a team, to me, that is playing their hearts out every night to just win one game, and for us to walk around like we’ve done something, it bothers me on a basketball level. I didn’t like it.”

If there is any good to come from the outing against the Nets, it’s that this can be a learning experience for the Clippers moving forward. Teams hit rough patches throughout the season and learn how to fight through them and get better as a unit. However, this rough patch may have come a little bit earlier than the team would have liked.

While the past week hasn’t gone the way the Clippers would have liked, it’s entirely too early to hit the panic button. Given their early-season success, they have demonstrated that they can score with the best teams in the league and defend at a high level. L.A. has too much experience to not be able to bounce back from this rough patch.

It seems inevitable that they’ll be able to get back on track, but their game tonight against the Cleveland Cavaliers will be a tough challenge. The Clippers won’t be coming into the game playing their best, so it’ll be on the players to snap out of their funk and return to playing complete basketball for all four quarters.

Jason Kidd Discusses Triple-Doubles

Milwaukee Bucks head coach Jason Kidd knows a thing or two about triple-doubles. Over his 19 years in the NBA, Kidd recorded 107 triple-doubles, which ranks third-highest in league history. His 107 trail only Magic Johnson’s 138 and Oscar Robertson’s 181.

Robertson holds the NBA record for most triple-doubles in a season with 41, which he set in the 1961-62 season. Kidd’s highest mark for a season was 12, which he accomplished twice during his career – both with the New Jersey Nets.

So far this season, there have already been 18 total triple-doubles recorded. Of those 18 triple-doubles, Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook has nine of them. He’s recorded a triple-double in four straight games and has finished just one assist short of a triple-double on three other occasions.

LeBron James and James Harden each have three triple-doubles this season, while Julius Randle, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Chris Paul have each recorded one apiece. Last season, 24 players combined to record 75 triple-doubles, with Westbrook accounting for 18 of them. His 18 last season is tied for eighth-most in a season.

What Westbrook has been able to do so far this season is incredible. He’s now averaging a triple-double and is one of only five players to do so more than five games into a season. When Kidd was asked about how hard it is to do what Westbrook has done this season, it took him a few seconds to put it into words.

“It’s hard,” Kidd told Basketball Insiders. “The other thing that’s kind of interesting is no one is talking about LeBron’s 10 assists. He’s almost averaging 10 assists. What these young players are doing is incredible. It just shows where the game is and how good they really are. What Westbrook is doing is something that I would only dream about doing.”

James is averaging 23.5 points, 9.3 assists and 8.1 rebounds per game this season for the Cavaliers. While his scoring is down a bit compared to last season, his 9.3 assists and 8.1 rebounds per game are both career-highs.

James has impacted games arguably more in different areas, as he’s recognized he doesn’t need to be the team’s leading scorer with Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and others on the team.

“A lot of it, it happens,” Kidd said. “You’ll find yourself, your imprint being involved in the game is when you can do things like that. You’re doing something right. You’re putting yourself in the position to win a ballgame. That’s what [they are] doing.”

Westbrook and the Thunder return to action on Sunday against the New Orleans Pelicans, where he’ll be looking for his fifth straight triple-double.

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About Cody Taylor

Cody Taylor

Cody Taylor is an NBA writer in his fourth season with Basketball Insiders, covering the NBA and NCAA out of Orlando and Miami.