Los Angeles Clippers reserve forward Wesley Johnson returns after sitting out five games
Wesley Johnson, who sat out five games because of a bruised left heel, was cleared to play Monday night, giving the Clippers a small forward who could provide a significant boost to the second unit.
“We missed him defensively,” Coach Doc Rivers said before the game, “because he was the fourth guy on a second unit whose defensive numbers were off the charts because we had four guys who could switch.
“When Wesley was hurt, we only had three guys who could switch, and that had an impact on our defense. It will be nice [to have him back]. What I have to judge is how well he can move.”
Rivers has largely gone with two five-man groups and his starters have played more minutes together than any other NBA lineup, placing an added emphasis on bench production.
There was little drop-off offensively without the 6-foot-7, 215-pound Johnson, who averaged 3.2 points and 3.8 rebounds while playing an average of 14.1 minutes in the first nine games.
But there was a vast difference in the second unit’s defensive efficiency. In 92 total minutes with Johnson, the second unit gave up 91.1 points per 100 possessions. In 44 minutes with Brandon Bass in Johnson’s place, the second unit gave up 126.7 points per 100 possessions.
“When he was out, the defense was a whole lot different,” reserve guard Raymond Felton said at Monday’s shoot-around. “[With Johnson] we switched a whole lot more, you have a more athletic guy with long arms. And then he spaces the court for us also on offense.
The Toronto Raptors entered Monday with the league’s second-best offense, averaging 107.5 points a game. Johnson helped a Clippers defense that entered Monday ranked second in the NBA in points allowed at 95.4 a game.
“Good or bad, you still want to be out there competing with the team,” Johnson said. “But they’ve been doing well, so I’m eager to get back out there.”
To err is human
Rivers strongly objected to the way referees handled the end of the Sacramento Kings’ 102-99 win over Toronto on Sunday, when they used a video review to determine if the Raptors forced overtime on Terrence Ross’ three-pointer at the buzzer.
With 2.4 seconds left, Ross grabbed a deflected pass, dribbled twice and made a 33-foot shot. Referee Mike Callahan said the replay showed that the clock didn’t start when DeMarcus Cousins deflected the ball and that the actual elapsed time of the play was 2.5 seconds, resulting in no basket.
“I thought it was unfair … I thought that was awful,” Rivers said. “I don’t think you should look at video to see right when a guy touches it, because that’s not realistic. It’s human error. When a referee pushes the button on the clock, there’s always a half-second delay. If we did that, Derek Fisher’s shot wouldn’t have counted against San Antonio back in the playoffs.”
Monday’s game marked the first time in NBA history that two players from Cameroon — Clippers forward Luc Mbah a Moute and Raptors forward Pascal Siakam — played against each other. Only two other NBA players, one current and one retired, hail from Cameroon: Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers and Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje, who played for the Portland Trail Blazers from 2001-04.
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