The Los Angeles Clippers started the 2015-16 campaign with four straight wins. Following the first week of the season, they've gone 3-8 and are stuck looking for answers after their most recent loss on Wednesday to the Utah Jazz.
According to Blake Griffin, "We have to be more resilient. Teams go on runs. We have to be able to withstand a run and not get down on ourselves."
Josh Smith echoed a similar notion as he had a front row seat to the numerous Clipper meltdowns when Houston knocked Los Angeles out of the last postseason.
"I feel like mentally, we're not as mentally strong as we can be. I feel like sometimes when we're up and a team's coming up, there's some strain on our end. We just need to be mentally strong -- a swagger where we're like 'We're still going to win this basketball game.'"
With their backs against the wall, the Rockets won three straight elimination games to crush the hopes of Chris Paul and all of his teammates. Apparently, a whole off-season has not fixed the problem as outlined by James Herbert.
Through 15 games, the Clippers much-talked-about offseason seems underwhelming. Smith is shooting 38 percent from the field and reportedly got in a profanity-laced shouting match with an assisant coach after a loss. Austin Rivers and Jamal Crawford, an ill-fitting backcourt pair if there ever was one, are playing 17.2 minutes per game together. Los Angeles is giving up 107.5 points per 100 possesions when Paul Pierce is on the court.Lance Stephenson is an already an afterthought. Pablo Prigioni and Cole Aldrich barely play.
At the center of the maelstrom sits Doc Rivers, the head coach but oft-ridiculed president of basketball operations. Last season, he took a lot of flack for failing to fulfill the obligations of his dual role; however, many felt he remedied the bench woes with a brilliant offseason. More than likely, they're probably re-thinking that praise this very minute.
So, besides making a charge in the 2nd half, what else should the Pelicans do to prolong the Clippers agony for one more game?
3 Keys to Victory
- Win the free throw battle. The Clippers are very good at getting to the line, and when they eclipse their average and have more than 29 FTA's, they usually go home the winner (5-1). However, they normally put opponents on the line nearly as often (26.6 FTA's). If the Pelicans make their usual share from the line (79.2 FT% - 6th best in the NBA) and players like DeAndre Jordan and Austin Rivers continue to build brick homes, New Orleans could enjoy a possible game-changing advantage.
- Dominate the glass. Despite the presence of Griffin and Jordan, the Clippers are not a good rebounding team. They have the third worst defensive rebound rate as opposed to the Pelicans who are 10th but have been even more exemplary during their 3-game winning streak (3rd). When Los Angeles collects 32 or fewer defensive rebounds, they have a dismal 3-8 record. New Orleans isn't keen on offensive rebounds, but they should look to create additional second chance points if their initial shots are not falling at a typical frequency.
- Knock down the three-pointers. In all 4 of their wins, the Pelicans have shot 35% or better from three-point range. Guess what? The Clippers allow opponents to shoot for an average of 35%! If New Orleans can just be average, they'll radically improve their chances for a win.
Tyreke Evans is listed as doubtful for the second straight game. My gut instinct tells me we'll probably not see him until Saturday, the game Jrue Holiday sits out due to the back-to-back. Alvin Gentry and the rest of the coaching staff would probably prefer having Holiday guard Chris Paul as the Jazz have no pace-setting floor general.
As long as Ish Smith doesn't completely revert back to historical precedent, the Pelicans should have plenty of ammunition at the point guard position. Rather, the focus should be on the recent emergence of the Anthony Davis-Ryan Anderson combo. Will they be able to contain Griffin enough and keep Jordan away from the offensive glass, or will the team be forced to give Omer Asik or Alexis Ajinca a lot more minutes than they've recently seen? The hope is the duo's offense circumvents any defensive issues because of late, they've been very very good.
Anthony Davis & Ryan Anderson together since November 10th (104 minutes) ORtg: 115.2 DRtg: 98.0 DARREN ERMAN FOR PRESIDENT— The Bird Writes (@thebirdwrites) November 26, 2015