Blake Griffin says 6-6 Clippers need to make changes
The analytics, standard statistics and old-school eye test are all saying the same thing. By any measure, the Clippers aren’t cutting it in the season’s early going.
A game in Portland against a team that had lost seven in a row was supposed to accelerate the Clippers’ road to recovery, but it only exacerbated their issues. They’re continually getting outrebounded, failing to defend late in games and playing with a casual approach against supposedly lesser teams.
Twelve games into the season, the Clippers are the definition of middling after a 102-91 loss to the Trail Blazers on Friday night left them with a .500 record. The Clippers (6-6) have lost six of their last eight games and don’t even resemble a playoff team, let alone one capable of playing all the way into June.
If there’s one upside to the situation it’s that the nonchalance they’ve shown on the court hasn’t carried over to the locker room.
“It’s not something we’re just ‘whatever’ about it, moving on,” Clippers forward Blake Griffin said late Friday night of the team’s struggles, “but we’ve got to make changes. We’ve got to have a sense of urgency to do that now, but at the same time, no one’s crumbling.”
It’s interesting to note that the Cleveland Cavaliers started last season with a worse record than the Clippers have at this point and reached the NBA Finals, going 5-7 before winning eight consecutive games and finishing with the second-best record in the Eastern Conference.
Of course, the Cavaliers also had LeBron James, who won’t be taking his talents to Venice Beach any time soon. The Clippers know any meaningful change starts with their stars.
“The guys that have been here … we’ve got to be better,” Griffin said while referencing J.J. Redick, Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan and Jamal Crawford in addition to himself. “We’ve got to show everybody the way a little bit. Not that they don’t know how to play, but just our style and the way we deal with things. We’ve got to find it.”
They can start with their late-game defense.
There has been a lot of focus on the Clippers’ offensive shortcomings in the final minutes of games, but their inability to stop teams has been far more worrisome. The Golden State Warriors made six of their last seven shots to wipe out a 10-point deficit Thursday and the Trail Blazers made three of five shots to extend a three-point lead the next night.
“We start taking the ball out of the net a lot of times in the fourth quarter and we’re a team that likes to play up and down,” Paul said, “so it gets tough having to run sets and different things like that down the stretch.”
The Clippers rank 27th in the NBA in rebounding and have been outrebounded by an average of 5.5 a game. Portland snagged 13 more rebounds than the Clippers, largely a function of the Trail Blazers’ 17 offensive boards.
“That’s big,” Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said. “We’ve got to figure it out because it’s not just [Friday], it’s been every night.”
Even more curious has been the Clippers’ tendency to ease into games against teams not considered contenders. The Clippers struggled early against the Detroit Pistons last week before needing a comeback to win and were listless for stretches against the Trail Blazers, failing to put them away.
“To me, it comes down to a sense of urgency every night,” Rivers said. “We played Golden State [Thursday] night and the urgency we had, you could visually see it. And we start out [Friday] and I think we think because people think we’re good or whatever, we kind of show up and try to get into the game.”
The Clippers have 70 games left in the regular season, but they won’t play many — or any — beyond that if they don’t change their ways soon.
“We always talk about fighting for playoff seeds and we wanted to get off to a better start,” Paul said, “but we can still get this thing right.”
Up next for Clippers: Sunday vs. Toronto
When: 12:30 p.m.
Where: Staples Center.
On the air: TV: Prime; Radio: 980, 1330.
Records: Clippers 6-6; Raptors 8-6.
Record vs. Raptors (2014-15): 0-2.
Update: Toronto is struggling almost as mightily as the Clippers, having lost six of eight games before a 102-91 victory over the Lakers on Friday night. The Raptors probably will test the Clippers’ perimeter defense after having made 15 of 33 three-pointers against the Lakers, including a seven-for-11 effort beyond the arc by point guard Kyle Lowry. Eastern Conference contenders, including the Raptors, were a big problem for the Clippers last season, when the top four teams in the East went a combined 7-1 against the Clippers.
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