SAN FRANCISCO — If you took a quick look at Thursday night time’s prime-time, nationally televised sport between the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors, you might need thought Russell Westbrook was doing ball-handling drills in an empty gymnasium. It seemed like a kind of commercials the place Giannis Antetokounmpo and the dude from that Marvel film erase bystanders within the background of their picture with the swipe of a finger.
The marriage between Westbrook and the Clippers was considerably puzzling from the beginning — the staff had simply began to play nicely behind a wholesome Kawhi Leonard, they’d lastly found what seemed to be a long-term resolution at level guard with Terance Mann they usually’d simply added backcourt depth on the commerce deadline with Bones Hyland and Eric Gordon. Signing Westbrook was questionable even when he was anticipated to be a spark plug off the bench. Starting him in his first sport in a Clipper uniform appeared destined for catastrophe.
Sure sufficient, after an uninspiring 115-91 loss to the shorthanded Warriors, the Clippers are actually 0-4 within the Russell Westbrook period.
The most regarding match difficulty that Westbrook brings to the Clippers was on show early and infrequently by the Warriors, who defended him like he was a clicker from “The Last of Us,” staying as far-off as attainable.
Opponents have defended Westbrook with facilities at varied factors throughout his profession, however the wily veteran Draymond Green — no stranger to manipulating opponents with head video games — sagged fully off of the previous MVP figuring out that any bounce shot he tried was a victory for the protection. The outcome was a clogged lane for potential drives from Leonard and Paul George, with an additional defender able to rotate to any shooter aside from Westbrook.
Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue, who was going over eventualities with Westbrook on a white board within the locker room earlier than the sport, stated he did not do a adequate job getting ready his staff for that very situation. Even so, Westbrook discovered success towards the intense drop protection at instances, significantly within the first half. Having no defender inside six ft of you means that you can see performs develop and get passes by way of that may in any other case be deflected, as Westbrook did right here with this dime to George for a layup.
Westbrook, coincidentally, might additionally be taught a factor or two from Green, who has confronted comparable defenses all through his profession and countered them with dribble hand-offs and screens to unencumber teammates. That’s what Lue desires to see extra of from Westbrook if and when he faces that kind of protection once more.
The issues that Westbrook creates on offense as a non-shooter — significantly subsequent to a middle like Ivica Zubac or Mason Plumlee — are very actual. But the Clippers aren’t frightened in regards to the excessive dropping inflicting too many points for them sooner or later.
“I assumed he countered it the suitable means. The downside was we simply missed pictures,” George stated after Thursday’s loss, through which the Clippers linked on 9 of 43 from 3-point vary. “Lots of us simply did not make the open ones. So I assumed the best way they performed him — he countered it and was in assault mode and was taking part in quick.”
The gimmick protection towards Westbrook will get the headlines, however a number of Clippers, together with Lue, attributed Thursday’s loss to a scarcity of effort, significantly on the defensive finish. The Warriors laid a 42-16 third-quarter smackdown on the Clippers, which successfully put the sport to relaxation.
Prolonged defensive lapses have been widespread in the course of the four-game dropping streak, lowlighted by a 176-175 double-overtime loss to the Sacramento Kings, the second-highest scoring NBA sport of all time. Lue stated he desires to trim down his rotation quickly, they usually have not had a lot time to include their new items, however the Clippers do not assume that ought to be an element for a veteran group.
“We’ve all been in successful conditions and there ought to be no excuses,” Gordon stated after the loss to the Warriors. “We’ve acquired to have higher effort. We’ve acquired to be — extra consideration to element. To me, it is all on us gamers, and we have got to deliver it extra.”
The Clippers haven’t got a lot time to determine issues out. After Thursday’s loss, the staff that many predicted to advance to the Western Conference finals, if not farther, sat in play-in place at No. 7, only one sport forward of the No. 11 Los Angeles Lakers and No. 12 Portland Trail Blazers within the loss column. The Clippers have a troublesome remaining schedule, together with three video games towards the second-place Memphis Grizzlies and one towards the supercharged Phoenix Suns.
There’s no time to fiddle, and it finally might come all the way down to effort and urgency.
“You gotta to be more durable, and that is the underside line,” Lue stated. “When stuff do not go your means, it exhibits you what you are made from. I’m assured that we’ve got a very good staff, they usually should be the identical means. They’ve acquired to really feel the identical confidence. … My factor is simply, you already know, having that toughness, having that mindset that, OK issues should not going nicely, and let’s do one thing about it.”
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