On a day that tends to be blurred by green beer, silly hats, and “Kiss Me I’m Irish” buttons, we can’t forget that the Los Angeles Clippers won an important game against the New York Knicks yesterday in the Staples Center, 93-80. It wasn’t a particularly pretty game for either team, although it was expected of the Knicks since they were missing Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler, and Amare Stoudemire to knee injuries. But yesterday’s game also very clearly highlighted many of the things the Clippers need to work on if they hope to do well in the upcoming playoffs. You may notice that many of these have been haunting them all season, so if you’re interested, see my mid-season “lows” article for more (hint hint).
Let’s start with defense. Overall, the Clippers held the Knicks to 36% shooting. However, the Clippers allowed the Knicks to shoot over 42% from the 3-point line. even after they knew that the 3-pointer was one of the few things the Knicks were bringing to the game. The Clippers need to step up their 3-point defense if they hope to stand tall against stronger shooting teams in the playoffs.
Now let’s talk about turnovers. The Clippers committed 6 turnovers in the first quarter alone before cleaning up their game for a total of 12 overall. While 12 turnovers is not too bad, most of those turnovers were unforced. While the Clippers undoubtedly play much better when they get to run the ball on fast breaks, they need to be careful that the heightened momentum doesn’t lead to sloppy play.
And last but certainly not least, let’s talk about free throws. Combined, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan missed all nine of their free throws. Perhaps it didn’t matter too much in yesterday’s game, but solid free throw shooting will make a difference in close games. When it comes down to the wire, the Clippers can’t have any doubts about passing the ball low to Griffin and Jordan because they may or may not be able to deliver on the free throw line once they get fouled.
Last night, Chris Paul led the Clippers with 20 points and 8 assists, and Caron Butler followed with 14 points. Griffin put up 12 points and 12 rebounds, and Jordan pulled down 10 rebounds.
For the Knicks, J.R. Smith led the team with 17 points and 6 rebounds. Raymond Felton followed with 16 points and 9 assists, and Chris Copeland put up 13 points.
Despite all its shortcomings, last night’s game put the Clippers one full game over the Memphis Grizzlies and the Denver Nuggets, putting them in the three spot. They get set to take on the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday on the road. With the playoff race so close, each win from here on out is critical.
What do you think of the Clippers’ chances in the playoffs, Hubsters?