The Los Angeles Clippers were never a good defensive team. Then again, they were never really supposed to be. This team was going to live and die this season behind a high-octane offense led by Chris Paul and their ability to score points in bunches; filling up the nightly highlight shows with as many lob dunks as possible.
Lob City was built on a foundation of offensive excess and Ralph Lawler "Oh Me, Oh My's" rather than defensive X’s and O’s.
Of course, the Clippers would attempt to shore up their defensive problems as the season went along but there was always a better chance the Clippers’ offense would find a way to score more points than the opponent than the Clippers’ defense suddenly becoming a consistent force.
The one-dimensional nature of this team was doomed to catch up with them sooner or later but the Clippers never expected the wheels to completely come off midway through the season as it has. That's what happens when a team built on scoring suddenly can't score anymore.
That’s right. The Clippers, who were at least good for one thing this season, can’t even do that consistently anymore. Simply scoring 100 points has become as difficult as making a defensive stop late in games.
The Clippers’ 102-89 loss to the Indiana Pacers Tuesday night was the seventh straight game in which the Clippers have failed to score 100 points. They have only hit triple digits twice in their last 12 games. Their record in their last 17 games is 7-10.
Their inconsistent play and complete lack of creativity on offense can be traced back to Feb. 6 when Chauncey Billups was lost for the season with a ruptured Achilles tendon. Since then the Clippers are 11-12 and have gone from one of the top five teams in points and assists to a team in the middle of the pack and descending.
Outside of simply losing Billups, the biggest reason for this change has been the Clippers’ continually changing roster and the inconsistency of the team’s rotation. Since Billups’ injury, the team has cut Solomon Jones, signed Kenyon Martin, signed and later let go of Bobby Simmons, sent down and later called up Travis Leslie from the D-League and traded Brian Cook for Nick Young.
The Clippers haven’t had anything close to a consistent rotation since Billups went down and that was further highlighted against the Pacers as Young, who just joined the team on Friday and made his debut on Sunday, started the game ahead of Randy Foye. Against the Pacers, Foye, who had started 28 games this season, registered his first “DNP-Coach’s Decision” of the year. Against Detroit, Eric Bledsoe, who has given the Clippers’ spark off the bench and played 13 minutes against Indiana got a “DNP-Coach’s Decision.”
No one can figure out the rotation, let alone their role on their team. When Simmons was called up from the D-League last month, he was suddenly playing crucial minutes in the fourth quarter a few days later and defending Kevin Garnett while starting center DeAndre Jordan sat out the entire fourth quarter. Two hours after Young found out he was cleared to play on Sunday, he played 29 minutes without fully understanding the offense. Two days after his first game, he started and played 36 minutes for the Clippers in Indiana.
Perhaps the reason why newcomers are able to play so many minutes for the Clippers within hours of joining the team is the offense is as simplistic as something you’d find in a high school game. The playbook seems more like a play pamphlet when you watch the Clippers at times and that clearly isn’t lost on the rest of the league which has 45 games of film on how to curtail Lob City. It also doesn't help when three of your key players in Blake Griffin, Reggie Evans and Jordan can't hit a free-throw. Against the Pacers, the Clippers hit only 9 of 20 foul shots.
The problem is with 21 games left in the season and little to no practice time to make offensive adjustments, let alone incorporate new players, the Clippers’ offensive struggles will likely only get worse before they can get better.