Lob City makes lone appearance in Motown

Essentials

  • Teams: Los Angeles Clippers (17-6) at Detroit Pistons (7-19)
  • Date: December 17, 2012
  • Time: 7:30 p.m.
  • Television: FSD

What to look for

Instead of doing the traditional preview, PistonPowered reached out to Jovan Buha of Clipperblog, the ESPN TrueHoop Affiliate blog for the Los Angeles Clippers to get his thoughts on the Clips’ play this season as well as their recent stretch of consecutive victories.

J.M. Poulard, PistonPowered: The Los Angeles Clippers are coming to town tonight but they’re not last year’s Clippers. Instead, they’ve morphed into a slightly different team that executes better in the half court and has an impressive bench to give them some really good production.

This partly explains why the Clips have one of the best records in the Western Conference and sport a terrific plus-8.4 scoring differential on the season.

Jamal Crawford might just make some casual Lakers fans crossover to the to Clips (see what I did there?) bandwagon, while Vinny Del Negro reaps the benefits of it all.

But if there’s really one area Lob City has destroyed opponents, it’s unquestionably at the point guard position. So tell me oh wise one, how does it feel to have the best point guard tandem in the NBA?

Jovan Buha, Clipperblog: It’s calming. There’s really no other way to describe it. For 48 minutes a game, you never have to worry about the offense being run, the right guys getting touches and (almost) every possession being maximized.

The Clippers have not only the game’s best point guard, but the game’s best point guards as well.  That’s insane to think about.

Both are pests defensively, Paul more so in the passing lanes, and Bledsoe more as an on-the-ball bulldog (a bulldog who can also block shots with his head and challenge Dwyane Wade at the rim).

And, of course, they’re much different players offensively.

Paul’s the pick-and-roll mastermind, shifting his way to the basket, stepping back for a cool midrange jumper, or hitting a cutting Blake Griffin or DeAndre Jordan for a highlight reel dunk. He has as many tools in his arsenal as any point guard, and he’s always under control. His teammate and “big brother”, Chauncey Billups, is nicknamed “Mr. Big Shot”, but that moniker may apply to CP3 more than anyone else.

Bledsoe can get into the lane with ease, has improved his shot, and is probably the most athletic guard in the NBA — maybe Russell Westbrook or a healthy Derrick Rose have a say in that, but it’s unlikely. He would start for over half of the team’s in the NBA; the fact that he doesn’t start on this team is a bit perplexing.

With that said, it’s difficult to complain with these two as Clippers.

J.M. Poulard: Completely agree with you Jovan, the point guard play has been instrumental to the team’s early success and there’s no reason to think that is going to change.

Another aspect that’s provided a lot of intrigue around the league is the Clippers’ efficient post play. Blake Griffin is still a highflyer but he can also create a plethora of high percentage shots from the low post and that’s been quite evident this season. He’s looked more patient down on the block with the ball, giving the impression that he now knows what coverage to expect from defenses and how to take advantage of it whether by pass or by going through with his move. Defenders are at his mercy to some extent as his footwork is pretty much the same, but it seems to be much quicker; it’s as if he worked on it with Apollo Creed after seeing Rocky III.

The stats bear it out as well: MySynergySports tells us that he is converting 50 percent of his shots out of post ups as opposed to 44.9 percent from last season.

Furthermore, DeAndre Jordan’s offensive improvement has resulted in him being a legitimate post threat that defenses have to honor. Indeed, Synergy tells us he took 33 shots out of post ups last season but has blown that figure away this year having already accumulated 54 such field goal attempts.

All of these fancy stats lead me to one question: is their a frontcourt that you feel can matchup with the Clippers?

Jovan Buha: Great question. Honestly, I’m not sure. The only two frontcourts that come to mind are Memphis’ and the Lakers’.

Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph each have a size advantage (width-wise) on the Clippers’ bigs, so they can negate some of their effectiveness by being physical and knocking them out of their comfort spots. Plus, Griffin and Randolph don’t exactly like each other, so that’s always a heated matchup.

Then, of course, the Lakers are super long and talented defensively (at least in the interior) so they can limit some of the high flying act that is known as Lob City. Pau Gasol has traditionally defended Griffin well, so that’s something to keep an eye on.

Besides those two, there aren’t really any frontcourts that can match their size, talent and skill. There definitely aren’t any frontcourts that can match their athleticism.

Smallball lineups could be a problem — Miami with Bosh/LeBron, Oklahoma City with Ibaka/Durant, New York with Chandler/Carmelo — but in that case, the Clippers would likely insert Matt Barnes, or even the suddenly energized and skinnier Lamar Odom for Jordan.

The Clippers have a lot of options. That’s all you can ask for.

J.M. Poulard: I totally tricked you! Essentially what you’re saying is that the Pistons frontcourt shouldn’t pose any problem for the likes of Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and Lamar Odom.

To be fair, Detroit’s porous interior defense may in fact surrender a multitude of open looks in the paint to the Clips, which could spell doom for the Pistons.

Nonetheless, I’m curious to see if Lawrence Frank exclusively matches Andre Drummond against Lamar Odom, or if he’ll allow his prized rookie to see some minutes against Blake Griffin.

With that said, the Clippers are in the midst of a nine-game winning streak, with six of those victories coming by double digits. What’s been the most impressive aspect of the Clippers during their most recent run?

Jovan Buha: The most impressive part has unquestionably been their bench.

The Clippers’ starters tend to get out to lackadaisical starts, rarely manifesting a large first quarter lead no matter the opponent. Then the bench comes in, and it’s all downhill for the opposing team.

Bledsoe wreaks havoc on point guards and has one or two jaw-dropping plays a game; Jamal Crawford provides the offensive foundation; Ronny Turiaf does the dirty work down low; Lamar Odom is a surprisingly solid defender who can obviously move the ball and facilitate; and Matt Barnes has arguably become the MVP of the bench recently — he does a little bit of everything.

During this streak, the starters haven’t had to play that much, if at all, in the fourth quarter. Simply put, the Clippers’ bench extends leads, not loses them.

How many teams can say that?

There’s a reasonable argument that LA’s bench has actually outplayed their starters.

J.M. Poulard: Great breakdown of the Los Angeles Clippers Jovan, and thanks for stopping by. Hopefully we can do this again when the Detroit Pistons travel to L.A. for the rematch.

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