Yesterday’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers was one that the Los Angeles Clippers really should have won. The heartbreaking 101-100 loss gave the Clippers their 4th-straight loss. Luckily, the Clippers don’t have to wait long for their chance at revenge: they take on the Trail Blazers again tonight, but this time in the Staples Center.
So what do the Clippers have to do to ensure that tonight’s doesn’t end up like last night? Let’s look at some of the factors that led to the Trail Blazers’ victory.
First, the Clippers need to calm down on offense. I said this in one of my previous articles, but the Clippers just can’t seem to pull it together without Chris Paul’s calming direction. And this anxiety on offense often leads to unnecessary turnovers. Last night, the Clippers turned the ball over 15 times that led to 22 Trail Blazer points. Cutting down on just a few of those turnovers will make a big difference.
The Clippers clearly dominated down low, outscoring the Trail Blazers 56-32 in the paint. But playing big down low is not enough. The Clippers need to focus on also having a big game from the 3-point line, something they haven’t been able to do for the last few games. While the 3-point percentage wasn’t radically different between the two teams last night, the Trail Blazers went 11 for 25, while the Clippers went 7 for 16. The sheer difference in the amount of 3-pointers taken is something that the Clippers should make note of. A last-second shot by Jamal Crawford should not have been the deciding factor; instead, the Clippers need to consistently have those 3-pointers throughout the game so it doesn’t come to that.
But it’s not just that the Clippers need to be taking more 3-point shots (which they do), but they also need to do much better defending the 3-point line. The Trail Blazers’ season average from the 3-point line is 34%, and last night the Clippers allowed 44%.
The Clippers also need to channel their energy and focus on making free throws. Last night, the Clippers shot 76.5% from the foul line, while the Trail Blazers shot 95.2%. Those few free throws could have meant the difference in such a close game.
There’s no question that Nicolas Batum had a great game. Batum achieved his second triple-double in three games with 20 points, 10 rebounds, and a career-high 12 assists. He also proved extremely effective guarding Crawford, as his 6-foot-8 frame is a a large height to shoot over. Because he’ll be riding on the momentum from this achievement, the Clippers need to make sure that they don’t let Batum get in his groove.
For the Clippers, Blake Griffin had 24 points, 8 rebounds, and 10 assists last night. Griffin has been playing great the last few games, so he just needs to keep his playing up again tonight. Crawford followed with 19 points, but needs to take more than 6 shots from behind the 3-point line tonight.
For the Trail Blazers, Damian Lillard followed Batum with 20 points, and Wesley Matthews put up 18 points.
Perhaps being in the Staples Center tonight will reinvigorate the Clippers, giving them the energy they need to win. While streaking can be fun, losing streaks are not quite the same.