Saturday, January 21, 2012
Postgame thoughts: Minnesota loss
By Pedro Moura
Here are some items of note from the Los Angeles Clippers' 101-98 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Staples Center.
The final play
For the second straight game, the Clippers' fates came down to a final play at the Staples Center -- and 3-pointers both, at that. But Friday's shot was by Kevin Love of Minnesota, whereas Chauncey Billups hit a big 3-pointer on Wednesday to beat Dallas.
What happened on Love's shot?
The short answer: DeAndre Jordan, assigned to cover him, didn't know what was going on. He was screened well by Wayne Ellington and Ricky Rubio, but he didn't diagnose what was actually happening on the play until the ball was already almost in Love's hands behind the 3-point line.
When Love caught it, Jordan was at the free-throw line. He wasn't even a factor in defending the shot.
The long answer: The play that was run is well-established as one of Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman's go-to's in late-game situations, dating back to his days in Sacramento. But Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro and defensive assistant Dean Demopoulos evidently didn't plan for it.
As Love later said, you could tell the Clippers had no idea what was coming simply by the way they lined up. Three of their defenders -- plus Blake Griffin, who was chasing Derrick Williams -- were lined up on the basket side, which left Love completely open when he broke the opposite way.
Just like that, the ball was in the basket and the game was over. Del Negro made a point of saying after the game that the shot wasn't the only reason the Clippers lost, and he was quite right.
But it's also true that the game would likely have gone to overtime if the Clips had played the last shot right.
Maybe the Clippers don't make it as obvious as the New Orleans Hornets used to because of some of the other personnel they have, but L.A. is direly missing the services of one Chris Paul.
He missed his fourth consecutive game Friday, and the Clips haven't had a single good fourth quarter in that stretch. Friday, they were outscored 29-19 by the Timberwolves over the final 12 minutes.
Billups, a wily veteran, has made big shots, but he doesn't have the same control of the Clips' offense that Paul did. Things don't run as smoothly when he's running the point.
“It's happened several times in a row now,” Griffin said of crumbling in the fourth without Paul. “We've got to do a better job of making sure we maintain our lead and execute down the stretch.”
The Clippers now play only one game until Wednesday -- Sunday against Toronto. It seems like a possibility Paul'll play in that game, but the real good bet is that he'll play Wednesday against the Lakers.
What may have really cost the Clippers Friday's game was the ejection of Mo Williams with 6:21 to go in the fourth quarter.
To that point, Williams had been the Clips' most reliable scorer of the night, scoring 19 points in the first half alone. But he was ejected when he appeared to question an official's foul call on him when Rubio slipped to the floor in the lane.
A number of Clipper coaches and players reacted violently to the call, but Williams was the one whistled for the technical -- his second of that. He couldn't believe at first, but he was sent off and forced to watch the rest of the game from the locker room.
Afterward, he said he didn't say "anything" to the referee and added that he thought the official would regret his decision "deep down inside."
"I felt it was a questionable call," Williams said. "I just reacted to it, not in the direction of the referee, but towards our bench. I was surprised the technical was called.
“I think nine times out of 10 he wouldn’t give me a technical foul. It was just that one time, a crucial point in the game.”
It was quite crucial for the Clippers. After Williams was ejected, they managed only nine points the rest of the way. Being without Paul, Williams and Caron Butler was too much to overcome.
“I felt like I could have made a difference in the game,” Williams said. “It's tough to know you can't do anything about it. You can't even be out there to see what you see and help out that way.”
Final notes: Staples Center was sold out for the ninth-straight time for the Clippers this season. They've now made it through more than one-quarter of their home schedule this season with every seat sold every game...Due to injuries, Clipper players Randy Foye and Ryan Gomes played larger roles than normal in Friday's game against their former team. Foye and Gomes each spent three seasons with the Wolves, two of them as teammates. Billups also played two seasons in Minnesota early in his career...Butler sat out of the game with a hyper-extended right knee but could play Sunday against the Raptors.