UPDATE: Larry Sanders and O.J. Mayo are once again out due to illness, with Gary Neal a game-time decision (he would play otherwise? Sure!). Thankfully, Larry Drew has a rational-looking starting lineup, with Khris Middleton and John Henson joining Brandon Knight, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Ersan Ilyasova in the starting five.
L.A. Story. The Clips were last seen surviving an out-of-nowhere 51 points from Terrence Ross in Toronto on Saturday night, riding 37 points and 11 assists from sixth man extraordinaire Jamal Crawford and 30 from Blake Griffin for their second straight road win. The win moved L.A. to fourth in the west and 2.5 games back of the Blazers in the Pacific.
The Clips also improved to a rather impressive 9-3 without Chris Paul, thanks in no small part to the strong play of Paul's understudy Darren Collison. Like Eric Bledsoe last year, Collison has done a solid job filling in for the otherwise irreplaceable CP3, as our friends at Clips Nation have noted:
In 12 games and 33.8 minutes per game as a starter this year, Darren Collison is averaging 13.8 points, 5.8 assists, 2.8 rebounds, 1.7 steals, and 0.2 blocks on 49/45/89. Team has gone 9-3. Collison's TS% is 60.5%. Usage Rate is at 18.0%.
Also, Bledsoe had a 2.03 assist-to-turnover ratio. Collison is at 2.92 right now.
Interestingly this isn't a new experience for Collison. The best stretch of Collison's four-plus year career came during the 09/10 season with New Orleans, when he similarly filled in for Paul and put up an eye-popping 18.8 ppg and 9.1 apg on .485/.429/.852 shooting in 37 games as a starter. The Pacers were hoping for those numbers when they dealt for Collison the following summer, but the former UCLA speedster ultimately disappointed as a starter in both Indiana and Dallas before settling for a backup gig in L.A. last summer.
Bigs playing big. Larry Sanders, John Henson and the rest of the Bucks' big man crew could be in for a long night against the league's most athletic big man combo, eh? Blake Griffin (104) and DeAndre Jordan (122) rank fourth and first in the league in dunks, well ahead of Bucks leaders Giannis Antetokounmpo (41) and Henson (40), though these guys do a lot more than just the highlight reel stuff you see on SportsCenter.
Griffin's flair for the spectacular often obscures his consistency: he's posted PERs between 21.9 and 23.4 in each of his four seasons, has improved his true shooting percentage each year and missed just two games since making his NBA debut in 2010. He's posting a career-best 22.8 ppg and 58% true shooting this year to go along with his customary 10 rpg and 3.5 apg, earning him a fourth all-star berth in as many seasons.
Jordan's of course not on Blake's level in terms of star power, but under Doc Rivers the former second round pick has seen his minutes rise by roughly 30% while upping his rebound rate to a career-best 21.5%--good for a league-leading 13.8 rebounds per night. The minutes bump also explains his career-best 2.4 bpg and 9.6 ppg, though most of his non-rebounding stats are consistent with his career numbers on a per-minute basis.
You'd expect those figures would make Jordan the linchpin of the Clippers' defense, but his advanced stats raise some doubt about that. Via NBA.com/stats, he's allowing a rather mediocre 52% shooting within five feet of the basket, and L.A.'s defense has allowed 1.6 fewer pts/100 when he's not on the court. By comparison, Larry Sanders is once again among the league's best with 38% shooting allowed near the rim on 7.1 attempts/game, while Giannis allows 41.5% (3.3/game) and John Henson 44.2% (7.8/game). The biggest surprise? In a much smaller sample (3.0/g), Miroslav Raduljica's 36% figures gives him the second best figure in the league among players who average 10+ mpg and face at least 3 attempts/game.
The trade that shall not be named. J.J. Redick's tenure in Milwaukee is one that Bucks fans would like to forget, so don't expect a warm reception for the otherwise likable sharpshooter tonight at the BC. But after struggling down the stretch in Milwaukee, Redick has returned to form in L.A., scoring 16.4 ppg and posting an 18.4 PER on terrific 60.3% true shooting. Goes to show what the right situation can do for a quality complementary player, eh?
On the plus side for the Bucks? The Redick/Collison backcourt is small enough that Luke Ridnour (who we assume is still starting, for whatever reason) won't be completely outmatched defensively for a change. Yay?
The Doc Impact. Doc Rivers' arrival was intended to help the Clippers get over their postseason slump--and make sure Paul didn't bolt in free agency--so in the grand scheme of things he'll be judged by what the Clips do in April, May and June. Still, it's interesting to note that the Clippers are about where they were last year in terms of efficiency. After finishing 4th offensively and 8th defensively under Vinny Del Negro last year, they rank a comparable 3rd and 9th this year.
Still, there are differences in how they're doing it. Doc's Clips shoot more threes and get to the line more while playing at a faster pace (19th to 9th), though they've also been notably worse on the boards, dropping from 7th/15th to 22nd/26th on the offensive/defensive glass.
Talk Show. Saturday's abysmal effort against the Hawks left Larry Drew once again searching for answers at his post-game presser, prompting an extended 20-minute post-game meeting before the media was allowed in. It's not clear what the Bucks' latest loss might mean for Drew's rotations, but no one would be surprised to see another round of changes when the Bucks take the floor tonight. Check out Andrew Gruman's story for a whole mess of disappointment and sadness--here's one choice excerpt that more or less gets to the core of the Bucks' problems right now.
"I saw times where possessions were taken off," Drew said. "I don't care what the situation is from a wins and losses standpoint, guys are being paid to play hard. We didn't play hard. When you play against teams that play hard, you have to play harder. We didn't play hard.
We always knew the Bucks weren't extremely talented, but they don't really have anything else going for them right now either. We don't know what goes on behind closed doors or between the ears of the players and coaches, but right now they look unprepared, undisciplined, and lacking in any kind of conviction--a combination that speaks poorly of everyone involved. Watching this team you can't help but feel like everyone is still in preseason mode, stuck making the same mistakes and too broken in spirit to pull themselves together.
Somebody should put me in marketing, eh?
Kobe and the kid. Curious what Kobe Bryant thinks about young Giannis? Check out this video interview with Kobe from Greek site Sport24, which feature's Kobe's thoughts on Giannis' development and what he thought was critical to his development from teenage rookie to NBA superstar. Thanks to Angelos Sourgounis for sending us the link!
- Submit your questions for the sure-to-be-depressing Brew Hoop Mailbag!
- The official Larry Drew post-game press conference guide
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