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Clipper Key? Defend the Three

Posted By Taylor Smith On Jan 29 2013 @ 5:20 pm In Los Angeles Clippers | No Comments

Things have hit the skids a bit of late for the L.A. Clippers, who snapped a four-game losing streak with a 96-83 win over the Portland Trail Blazers Sunday night. Fortunately, at 33-13, they’re still a comfortable 3.5 games ahead of Memphis for the No. 3 seed in the West, nipping at the heels of Oklahoma City and San Antonio.

During that four-game skid, one trend seemed to stick out above all the rest.

Sure, Chris Paul missed three of those games, and looked badly hobbled in the one in which he played as he continues to nurse his bruised knee. But that’s not what we’re talking about here.

So far this season, one of the Clippers’ few weaknesses as a team has been defending the three-pointer. As of Monday, they’re ninth-worst in the league in that stat, allowing opposing teams to hit over 36 percent of their tries from beyond-the-arc.

During the four-game skid, L.A. allowed three of its opponents to make more than 10 threes. Golden State went 12-22 (54 percent), Oklahoma City went 15-27 (56 percent) and Portland (in their win) went 11-25 (44 percent).

Now, to be fair, Golden State and OKC rank Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, in the league in three-point shooting percentage, so it’s not like the Clippers are the only team that struggles keeping them away from the perimeter. There’s only so much you can do when 6’11″ Kevin Durant is rising up from long range.

It is rather curious that the Clippers struggle with this, though, considering the personnel they have.

Guys like Matt Barnes, Eric Bledsoe and Lamar Odom (in theory, at least) are solid wing defenders that generally do a superb job in limiting their opponents.

It’s absolutely crucial to the Clippers’ long-term success this season that they figure out a way to keep teams from killing them from three-point range.

Golden State, OKC, San Antonio, Utah and Houston are all teams L.A. may have to go up against in a playoff series. All five of them are in the top-10 in the league in three-point percentage. The Clippers, meanwhile, are just 18th in the league themselves.

The Warriors provide a particularly scary matchup, and they’ve already won the season series against the Clips 3-1. In two of those three wins, they made at least 12 threes. It’s absolutely killer, and they’re going to be a very tough out come playoff time if they wind up matched-up with Los Angeles.

Perhaps Vinny del Negro and co. could try to implement some sort of perimeter-oriented zone against teams like that for stretches, just to see if it can throw those teams out-of-rhythm a bit.

Whatever the case, the Clippers may not sniff their dream of a title unless they can find a way to curtail this rather unpleasant trend.

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