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Despite Overall Improvement, Clippers Can’t Find Road Mojo
Posted By Taylor Smith On Feb 8 2011 @ 3:55 pm In Los Angeles Clippers | 1 Comment
If the Los Angeles Clippers wore red shoes, maybe Blake Griffin could close his eyes, click his heels, and chant, “There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.” Maybe then, everything would be dandy.
However, the Clippers don’t wear red shoes, and the notion that something like that could actually work is inane. What’s wrong with you, writer guy?
Be that as it may, the Clippers haven’t been able to make themselves at home on the road so far this season.
They’ve dropped the first two of a season-long 11-game road trip, and it doesn’t get any easier as they head into the brand, sparkling new Amway Center in Orlando Tuesday night to take on a 32-20 Orlando Magic team fresh off of consecutive losses to Miami and Boston.
Our beloved Clippers have an abysmal 3-17 record away from Staples Center this season, and, unless they’re able to flip the switch and find the solution very quickly, will find themselves completely out of the Western Conference playoff hunt before the trip is halfway done.
So, what’s the deal? When you consider that they essentially play two more road games and two fewer home games than any other team every season (when the Clips “host” the Lakers twice a year), you’d think they would be relatively used to dealing with a hostile environment, right?
The numbers don’t tell the whole story, because the statistical home/road splits aren’t very different.
As a team, the Clippers shoot 46.0 percent from the field at home, and 45.3 percent on the road. They shoot 33.0 percent from three-point range at home and 33.7 percent on the road. They average 43.3 rebounds per game at home, and 42.2 on the road.
What about the quality of the opponents? Does that have anything to do with it? After all, they have played 10 more games at home than on the road so far this season.
This doesn’t seem like much of a factor, either. While they have lost to tough opponents like Dallas, San Antonio and New Orleans on the road, they’ve also dropped games to lowly teams such as Golden State, Philadelphia and Minnesota. Their biggest road win was a one-point victory at the hands of the Chicago Bulls in mid-December.
Following the atrocious 5-21 start to the season, the Clippers have been able to get things together a little bit, and have beaten some quality opponents along the way.
They’ve beaten the Lakers, Heat, Spurs, Hornets, Nuggets and Thunder this season. However, all of those wins came at home.
The new running-and-gunning style of the Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan Clippers has made them a major draw for home fans in Los Angeles. With the home crowds seemingly as loud as they’ve ever been for Clippers basketball, the team has been able to flourish and actually enjoy a home-court advantage, as evidenced by their recent nine-game home winning streak.
On the road, though, it’s been a different story.
Griffin has helped to make the Clippers a nice draw for fans on the road, and, for the most part, they get what they pay to see. The Rookie of the Year shoo-in will draw oohs-and-aahs from the crowd with a highlight reel dunk or two, but the home team will come away with that coveted “W.” So, everybody’s happy.
In a weird way, can Griffin’s show-stopping plays actually have an adverse effect on the Clippers’ road performance?
At home, whenever he throws one down in spectacular fashion, the crowd bursts into an absolute frenzy, and it’s evident that the rest of the Clippers feed off of the energy supplied by the eruption of the fans.
When this happens away from home, it can help energize a crowd, but can also help the home team.
“That rookie is going to come in here and punk us on our home court in front of our fans? No way. Not in our house.” That was an extremely fake quote, but you get the idea.
Perhaps the Griffin throwdown serves as a wake-up call/slap in the face to the home team, and they’re able to respond with a renewed energy and motivation to not allow Griffin and his Clippers to steal the show.
Much of the Clippers’ success at Staples Center has to do with the enthusiastic crowds and the “nobody believed in us” underdog mentality that comes with facing-off against a top-tier opponent.
For example, when the Heat came to Staples Center riding a 13-game road winning streak, the crowd was buzzing, and the Clippers responded by pouring in 44 first quarter points on their way to a 111-105 win.
When that isn’t there on the road, the team has been unable to generate its own energy. While they’ve been close on a few occasions, they’ve repeatedly come up short away from home.
Is there a surefire solution to this?
Quite simply: No.
Being able to win on the road is a mentality. Leadership is a major part of that. The roster is loaded with young guys (Gordon, Griffin, Jordan), but it’s up to the veterans and coaches to get them thinking the right way when the crowd isn’t there to provide a boost.
If this isn’t the way to go, then somebody should find Blake some red shoes.
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