Friday, February 22, 2013

The Pretend Clip Show

Like the real guys, two dimensional
So I tuned in the late NBA game tonight, hoping to see a good battle with the West's #1 seed on the road against the third-ranked Clippers. It was the Clip Show's first game after the all star break,with their ridiculously loaded roster at full strength, in a national game against an opponent that swept them when they were hurt in last year's playoffs.

And then the ball went up, and the Spurs were up 13 by the end of the first, 15 at the half, and 28 after three. Whoops. Spurs win 116-90, and it honestly was not that close.

Start, and end, with the point guards. Tony Parker went for 31 and 7 tonight against Chris Paul's 4 (!) and 3 (!), and honestly, nothing more needs to be said than that. San Antonio and Parker is like Kryptonite to the Clipper star, but that reduces things unfairly. San Antonio moved so well without the ball tonight, and distributed so effectively -- 30 assists on 43 makes -- that shooting 59% from the floor was in no way surprising, because so many of the makes were uncontested dunks and lay ups. And when they spotted up from behind the arc, five different guys connected to keep it over 50% from there, too. It was a clinic.

As for the Clips, this was one of those nights that make you wonder if Vinny del Negro is ever going to be more than a caretaker coach. His rotations had no answer, his timeouts did nothing to stop the momentum, and he pretty much coached this game as if he was going against a team that he could just win with talent. Now, I get that when you are faced with a better player, you just go A-B-C and try not to embarrass yourself... but the simple fact of the Clips is that they don't win games when they only have one blocked shot, because that's a game where their bigs just aren't involved, and the opponent is getting them into the parachuter club. And I'm still convinced that until Blake Griffin carries his team with more than high percentage dunks, and doesn't get his shot blocked four times, they are just a front-running club that can't go past the first round in a playoff push.

The bigger question is whether this is just another mid-season Spurs mirage, a situation where they win one and done games, but the magic fades in a series against a team that can prepare for the back cuts and big man passing. It also doesn't help that in the playoffs, the TV timeouts kill the value of the deep bench, and you wind up just running the Spur greybeards out there until they fail. Either that, or you just fail on the merits of not having the best player on the court.

Normally when teams play the Clippers, that's Paul... but not against Parker, and not against this team. Agianst Russell Westbrook's absurd athleticism, it's a different story, but Paul's game is equal parts cerebral, and nobody's game is craftier than the Frenchman's.

So that's the conundrum for the Clips: good enough to be the clear #3 in the West, but looking like night and day against the Spurs and Lightning. The lower lights in the West aren't dynamic enough to do the Clips' dirty work for them (although Denver is always a little intriguing, and maybe the Warriors could rain down enough threes to repeat the Baron Davis against the Mavericks Experience), and the team's not getting better unless Griffin and Paul carry them.

So far, not so much. And that's fine, really: only one team gets to win a year.

But can't you at least stay in the picture, at home, on national TV, and give us a game?

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