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March 27, 2015

Clippers shred Sixers defense in blowout win, 119-98

Chris Paul leads an offensive assault as Los Angeles places all five starters in double figures

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The Sixers suffered a rare home lopsided defeat at the hands of the explosive Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night at Wells Fargo Center by a score of 119-98. Here’s what I saw: 

The skinny

The Clips aren’t second in the NBA with a 109.4 offensive rating (and only barely behind Golden State) for no reason. Brett Brown has constructed a strong defense around the unique talents of Nerlens Noel in his second year as Sixers head coach, but his young corps had absolutely no prayer against the Clippers starters, who in all fairness pretty much destroy everything in their path. Even Matt Barnes was making 3s! To quote Sam Hinkie, Chris Paul has “optionality” when he’s running the offense.

“They’re one of these teams that’s rare because they can post Blake [Griffin, duh], they can throw lobs to DeAndre [Jordan, duh again], they can bring [J.J.] Redick off a pin-down, and then they got the killer in pick-and-roll in Chris Paul,” Brown said after.

The Sixers largely weren’t able to exploit Los Angeles’ terrible bench, either, which was a must if they wanted to turn the game competitive. Despite the home team making a late first-half charge to trim the deficit to eight points at halftime, the Clippers starters came out of the locker room in the third quarter and methodically put the game away. The Sixers have played well at home in the second half, but sometimes it has come against teams that aren’t operating with a full deck. Not tonight. It was full speed ahead for Doc Rivers’ team.

“I think it’s a great lesson, a great experience to play against a real team that is few weeks away from going into the playoffs, which that young group has heard me talk about is a whole different sport,” Brown later added.

Offensive observations

1. The Nerlens Noel Rookie of the Year train keeps on chugging along. The Clippers play the same defense Doc Rivers first employed along with Tom Thibodeau in Boston where they overload the strong side of the floor, so Noel was able to catch some lobs on the weak side because of it. Even if you want to discount those (which I won’t), the rook made some honest-to-God professional offensive moves against Jordan and the Clippers’ frontline like jump hooks and simple blow-bys putting the ball on the floor with his favorite left hand. A couple of garbage points let him make it to a career-high 30 on 12-17 shooting, to go along with 14 rebounds.

2. He wasn’t the best Wake Forest point guard on the floor, but I thought Ish Smith held his own against CP3, who also happens to be a great defensive guard. He even knocked down both of his 3s, which was bonus. Smith made some plays by attacking Austin Rivers in transition, but also got into the lane out of the pick-and-roll often enough to finish with nine dimes to three turnovers. He could’ve had more assists, too. The Sixers missed a few wide-open corner 3s that Smith set up.

3. Bobby Buckets only scored two points on four shots. Covington couldn’t make the same type of semi-contested looks that he regularly knocked down against Sacramento and Denver.

4. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Hollis Thompson were really the only other Sixers that had positive offensive performances. I particularly liked how LRMAM attacked the Clips early on in the game.

5. Isaiah Canaan had an interesting final line: 3-7 shooting overall, 3-7 three-point shooting, two boards, four personal fouls, and nothing else.

Defensive deductions

1. As well as he played offensively, Noel didn’t submit the type of turnover-forcing defensive performance we’ve come to expect. He finished with only two steals (one was very late when the game turned sloppy) and zero blocks. Jordan collected seven offensive rebounds, too, though to be fair he does that against a lot of people. I talked to Noel after about this, and he said that all of the Clippers’ firepower forced him to change his defensive game up.

“They have so many weapons, and I couldn’t really leave DeAndre too much, especially with him being a great offensive rebounder so I tried to stick with him and keep him off the boards,” Noel said. “Chris Paul, he’s one of the best ball-handlers in the league and they have so many weapons, so this is a game where you have to be a little more disciplined on the defensive end.”

2. That quote makes sense, because Paul is basically Peyton Manning in his prime. Not only is he a great, quarterback but also he has the equivalent Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, and Edge James at his disposal. Freelance a little bit, and the guy you’re guarding gets the ball. I can’t decide whether Paul or Steph Curry is the best ball-handler in the world, but it’s one of them. Dribbling is not an impediment to his normal running motion whatsoever.

3. Noel did often stick to Jordan, and Paul used the ball screen to destroy the Sixers in pick-and-roll with his scoring. There were 3s, finger rolls, layups, and the whole shebang. They call him the Point God for a reason.

4. Early in the first quarter, JaKarr Sampson encountered some difficulty chasing J.J. Redick off the ball around screens. On one play, the Clippers ran a “single-double” action and Redick fooled Sampson by which direction he decided to run. Redick also scored on Jerami Grant in this fashion a couple of times in the second quarter.

5. Blake Griffin was quiet for most of the first half despite being guarded by Jerami Grant for a long stretch. In the third quarter, he bulled his way to the rim on post-ups against Grant and Mbah a Moute a couple of times.

6. The front office sure is providing us with the opportunity for a lot of tribute videos with all of this wheeling and dealing. This time, Spencer Hawes got one. Is it OK that I laughed? Well, even if it isn’t, I did anyway.

None


This is the night I’ve been anxiously anticipating for awhile. When Lob City is in town, you’re going to get a lot of dunks. Jordan threw down a couple of monster alley-oops, but sadly nothing that matched the quality of his YAM on Jason Smith a couple of nights ago in New York. OVERALL GRADE: B+


Jordan loaded up on the strong side on this play, but the Clippers forgot about Noel hanging out around the low block. Smith made him pay. Grade: B


How about the dunk-block combo from Mbah a Moute? He has been one of my favorite players to watch this year, but for the work he does on the ground, not in the air. Grade: B

 


The Sixers media team is trying to get a little artsy here. I don’t approve! Grade: B+ (real dunk), D (dunk showed on the Vine)

Stat stuff

DeAndre Jordan free-throw percentage: 39.9 percent

Sticking true to his Spurs roots, Brown went to Hack-A-DeAndre late in the second quarter. Here’s the thing about Hack-A-Whoever: It’s almost never a sound strategy, but Jordan is one of the rare exceptions. According to this Box Score Geeks article, 46.4 percent is the cutoff point, and it’s generally not worth it to foul anyone above that number unless maybe you’re trying to steal a possession or two. Jordan obviously is so bad that it’s worthwhile. He only shot 3-12 from the line in the first half, and a bunch of those came after intentional fouls. The Sixers definitely made a push when implementing the strategy, too.

I’m a huge fan of what Brown is doing overall, but not here. It was smart move (especially with how the Clippers’ starters were scoring), but I hate, hate, hate watching a guy constantly shoot free throws (even if it was kind of funny to see him leave one short by two feet). It’s such a bad product. Here’s the best potential solution I’ve heard: If the Clippers wanted, they should be allowed to decline the foul shots and take the ball side out. I would like to see the NBA at least experiment with that particular tweak.

Player of the game

Covering the Sixers’ home games has been fun, because you don’t usually have to hand out POTG when the team gets waxed like they did tonight. Noel is your clear winner, with Smith coming in second and nobody placing third. Post-Trade Deadline Standings: Noel 10, Smith 5, Covington 4, Grant 3, Thompson 3, Robinson 2, LRMAM 1, Sampson 1, Richardson 1, and Canaan 1.

Tweet of the night

This was awesome. At halftime, the Sixers often let a bunch of their season ticket holders take a single halfcourt shot, with the prize being free season tickets in 2015-16 if they knock it down. Since I’ve been covering the team regularly (early January), nobody has been able to make one.

Well, tonight was the night, and the guy who nailed the shot did his best Iverson impression after Game 7 of the Raptors series in 2001. He ran around the court for a solid 20 seconds, and eventually jumped up on the Clippers’ bench. The one thing I have learned about regularly attending NBA games is that you never quite know what type of stupid fun you’ll encounter.

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