We’re three weeks into the NBA season, and only two teams have yet to win a game decided in the final minutes.
One is washington wizardsa rebuilding team whose struggles were predictable.
The other is a title contender. ScissorsThe inability to end close games was just one of several issues that led to a 3-7 start that included a six-game losing streak.
The Clippers are 0-5 in games within five points in the final five minutes, what the NBA defines as “clutch” time. Even Memphis, which has the league’s worst record, has two such wins, including a four-game lead over the Clippers on Sunday. .
What started with a two-point loss to Utah State in the second game of the season continued in one game. Lost to the Lakers in overtime The Clippers’ lineup is constantly changing Trading James Harden — Four players are missing, and Harden has yet to dress.But lost the last three games — by 7 points brooklynthree points to Denver and memphis The loss — came while trying to figure out how best to fit Harden into the lineup.
Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said he has watched the final five minutes of losses to Utah, the Lakers, Memphis and Denver “ten times” looking for answers.
But the general picture is as follows: At critical moments, the Clippers scored 106 points per 100 possessions, about 7 points lower than the season average; however, they allowed 140 points per 100 possessions, nearly 30 points higher than the season average.
Defensively, the Clippers often failed to end possession and get stops – a flaw that wasn’t limited to their clutch moments but was even more pronounced in the final possessions of games. At critical moments, the Clippers’ available defensive utilization rate was only 34.6%, and their rebound rate was the worst in the league. Perhaps relatedly, the Clippers have the league’s second-worst rate of second-chance points allowed in clutch situations and rank dead last in points allowed in the paint.
Given the rebounding issues that have persisted for several seasons, long-armed, switchable guards have been fielded, e.g. Nicholas Batum and Robert Covington Harden trade and backup center’s knee injury Mason Plumlee This led to Lue using smaller lineups for the rest of the game, and it wasn’t entirely surprising that it was difficult to stop his offense.
“In the last five minutes, we gave up 1.40 points per possession in the game, so that’s when we have to do a better job on defense,” Lue said. “Whether you score or not, defensively, you have to be good, you have to lock in, you can’t give up offensive rebounds, you can’t give up straight drives, things like that, we have to do better.”
What’s striking, however, is how difficult it is to score in an offense led by two former MVPs (Harden and Harden). Russell Westbrook), Finals MVP (Kawhi Leonard) and one of the league’s smoothest scorers (Paul George).
The Clippers’ key shooting percentage is 25.5%, third from the bottom in the league. Their opponents shot 48.9% from the field. All of this resulted in the Clippers trailing by 21 points in 23 games. crucial moment.
Lue thought the offense “did a good job getting to our spots for the most part,” while praising Leonard and George for often taking difficult mid-range shots.
Leonard shoots 18 points 5 points At the critical moment, Westbrook made 0 of 4 shots, Harden made 1 of 4 shots, and George made 3 of 9 shots, although he also had a team-high 13 free throw opportunities. Lue also senses that opponents like Denver are special in the game – planning to take the ball away from Leonard by blitzing him, unlike the Nuggets’ defense against Harden and George.
“Against the Denver Nuggets, the point guard was in good rhythm and rhythm, so we worked on him more, but I really needed to give Ke Huai more shots in the fourth quarter. Make sure he has a rhythm,” Lue said.
A big factor is the basic growing pains of the team learning how to play together. As Lue acknowledged, the Clippers are essentially running two offenses.
One is to give Harden the maximum space for pick-and-rolls, or to create offense in singles. Of the 99 ball-handlers with at least 20 pick-and-roll possessions this season, Harden is averaging 1.1 points per game. 14th, according to Synergy. Although he was quarantined only 11 times, the Clippers scored 1.3 points per possession, according to Synergy, which ranked third among 75 players who had been quarantined at least 10 times.
Another offense the team worked on in training camp was tailored to George and Leonard’s playstyle, allowing teammates to make opportunistic cuts away from the ball. Lue said that even after adding another isolation-heavy player in Harden, he is now being abandoned.
“There have to be more reads now,” Lue said. “We have to understand that when James has the ball, we want to keep some distance. When Kawhi and the point guard have the ball, we want to clear that gap. , to make sure they get the ball.” Set off and get to their spot.
“Like I said, it’s a process and people are a little confused at times, but we’ve got to keep working and we’ll get better.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.