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Los Angeles Clippers: Doing it With Defense?

Posted By Taylor Smith On Dec 3 2010 @ 5:19 pm In Los Angeles Clippers | No Comments

The Los Angeles Clippers are 4-15 this season, a half-game behind the Minnesota Timberwolves for the worst record in the NBA.

However, when you consider the quality of the wins, 4-15 doesn’t actually sound too shabby.

The Clippers have taken down the 13-6 Oklahoma City Thunder, the 13-5 New Orleans Hornets, and the 15-3 San Antonio Spurs. (They’ve also beaten the 4-12 Sacramento Kings, but 4-12 is 4-12.)

Considering the Clips have dropped games to lowly teams like the Pistons (6-13), Nets (6-13), and Timberwolves (4-14), how can this be explained?

For starters, all four of L.A.’s wins have come at home.

In the first win over the Thunder, the Clippers got a career-best effort from rookie point guard Eric Bledsoe (17 points, eight assists), 18 points and nine rebounds from Blake Griffin, and 27 points from their leading scorer, Eric Gordon.

Most importantly, however, Kevin Durant (last season’s scoring champion) was held to just 16 points and a miserable 6-24 shooting effort from the field, including 0-10 from three-point range. Durant is averaging just over 27 points per game this season.

Bledsoe and co. also did a wonderful job in limiting Russell Westbrook.

Westbrook, who has emerged this season as an early MVP candidate, scored just 16 points on 5-16 shooting.

When Serge Ibaka, Daequan Cook, and Jeff Green are the three best players for OKC on a given night, the Thunder are likely to lose.

Following a brutal nine-game losing streak, the Clippers’ next victory came at the hands of the Hornets, who entered the game with a nifty record of 11-1.

Again, the Clippers did a wonderful job in limiting the opponent’s premier player. In this instance, it was Chris Paul, who finished with 14 points, six assists, and four turnovers. He scored 12 of his 14 points in the first quarter.

David West enjoyed a big night for New Orleans, but he wasn’t getting much help from his teammates.

L.A.’s most dominant effort came at the hands of the Sacramento Kings on Thanksgiving night, and, all together now: were successful in limiting the opposing team’s primary scoring threat.

Tyreke Evans, last season’s NBA Rookie of the Year, shot just 2-13 from the field and was a non-factor from the outset.

The Kings were out-rebounded 45-35 in this game, and the Clippers outscored Sacramento 30-19 in the third quarter on their way to an 18-point win.

Most recently, the Clippers took down the San Antonio Spurs, who boasted an undefeated road record (8-0) coming in. The Spurs had also beaten the Clippers 18 consecutive times.

How did L.A. pull this one out after missing half of their free throws and committing 11 more turnovers than did San Antonio?

Guess what? Manu Ginobili shot 5-15. Tony Parker went 1-6 in just 18 minutes. Tim Duncan? 2-8.

This game came down to missing shots.

San Antonio was unable to convert late in the game, despite several opportunities to tie or take the lead. The Spurs were playing their second game in as many nights, having dispatched of the Warriors 118-98 the night before.

At 4-15, the Clippers obviously still have a very long way to go in order to make some real noise in the Western Conference.

Despite the offensive weaponry provided by guys like Eric Gordon and Blake Griffin, the Clippers appear to be learning (slowly, but surely) that defense is the true key to winning.

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