As the Los Angeles Clippers get set to host the Golden State Warriors in the team’s home opener, the worry of containing sharp shooters Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson become both the team’s and the fans’ number one worry. Just last night, Thompson lit up the Los Angeles Lakers for 38 points, finishing with a career high in points on 15-19 shooting from the field and 5-7 from three-point range.
The recurring theme for the Clippers’ defense continues to be its inability to consistently defend the three-point shot. After joining the team in the off-season, coach Doc Rivers mentioned that the team was solid defensively, but needed to defend the three point line better and defend with more purpose in transition.
The Lakers, who lost last night 125-93 to the Warriors, shot 14-29 from beyond the arc on Tuesday versus the Clippers. It’s safe to say that the defense the coaching staff envisioned is still a work in progress.
“It’s not that hard, it really isn’t. Trust first, then repetition,” Rivers said after Tuesday’s game via NBA.com’s live streaming. “I thought we broke our trust early, I thought we dodged a ton of bullets in the first half […] they were shooting 42 percent and our defense wasn’t very good. And I kept saying guys, every time we break down eventually they are going to make some of those shots and I think in the second half they did.”
As the defensive schemes continue to be experimented with, the offense can still impose its will on the game to limit the opposition’s success from three-point range and in transition. It starts and ends with how effectively Coach Rivers and point guard Chris Paul utilize the strengths of shooting guard J.J. Redick. As Drew Garrison of SB Nation outlined perfectly, Redick is the ideal two-guard for Paul due to his ability to both spot-up beyond the arc and create havoc with his off-ball movement.
Against the Lakers on Tuesday, the Clippers started off just fine. Redick opened the game with a three-pointer followed by a two-point mid-range jump shot to record the first five points for the Clippers. By the 7:30 mark of the first quarter, less than five minutes into the game, Redick already had two baskets from beyond the arc and 8 of the Clippers’ 14 points. The Lakers had the same amount as Redick at this point in the game. He finished the first quarter with 12 of the Clippers 30 points; he had 13 points at the end of the game.
Routinely getting the ball in Redick’s hands does two things: slows the game down (lower number of possessions) with his off-ball movement utilizing a portion of the shot clock, and further tires out the defense as they are forced to move and switch much more often.
There’s no doubt the Clippers can step up the pace of the game with talents like Paul, Griffin, and Jordan. When the opposition poses even more of a threat in an up-tempo game, the Clippers best bet is to keep the tempo at a level more suitable to their strengths. Get Redick moving and force Thompson to actually defend.
Just as the game against the Lakers won’t decide anything down the stretch, neither will tonight’s game against the Warriors. The team just needs to improve on a gamely basis; they can do that tonight with a heavy dose of Redick.
Photo via ClippestomyThunder – Tumblr