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Wednesday, February 26, 2014
Clippers improving from long range

By Arash Markazi

LOS ANGELES -- Jamal Crawford smiles when he’s told the Clippers were one of the worst three-point shooting teams in the league going into last weekend.

In their last two games, the Clippers have hit 29-of-58 from behind the arc, with Crawford hitting 12-of-20 and Matt Barnes hitting 8-of-13. Not surprisingly the Clippers have won two straight while slowly climbing up the three point rankings.

“I think the good thing about us is we don’t worry about that particular stat because if we did we’d say, 'Oh we’re 25th maybe we shouldn’t take them' but we take what’s there,” Crawford said. “At the end of the day, things balance out and have a way of working out and we have to continue to take good shots and play for each other.”

The Clippers were built to be a strong three-point shooting team but that hasn’t necessarily panned out this season. Their best three-point shooter, J.J. Redick, has missed 30 games and is out indefinitely with a bulging disk in his lower back. Jared Dudley, who was supposed to be the second best shooter from long range, has been relegated to the bench as he struggles through the worst shooting season of his seven-year career.

Doc Rivers, however, has continued to tell his shooters to shoot, regardless of the numbers, believing at some point they will turn around.

“I’ve been saying that all year and I hope it comes true,” Rivers said. “We’re a better shooting team from the outside than we’ve been. I tell my team they’re a great three-point shooting team and then you look at the percentages so we have to be what the percentages say right now but I know we can be better.”

While Crawford and Barnes have been hot recently, and even Hedo Turkoglu hit 4-of-7 from beyond the arc on Monday against New Orleans, Dudley is still waiting for his numbers to trend upwards. He has hit more than one three-pointer just once over the past 17 games and is hitting just 24 percent from long range this month. The Clippers are hoping that soon will change and are hoping he can return to the starting lineup whenever Redick returns.

“Look at a guy like Duds, he’s struggling but he’s been a good shooter his whole career,” Crawford said. “So you know at some point it’s going to balance out."

The Clippers are 25-0 this season when they make at least nine three-pointers. It’s a number that they aren’t necessarily gunning for coming into games but a number that is important beyond the fact that they’re able to hit the deep ball. When those shots are falling it makes things easier for Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan as well.

“I think it opens up the floor,” Crawford said. “Whenever you have C.P. and Blake they demand so much attention. Having D.J. rolling the the way he’s rolling it opens up the floor because no one wants to get dunked on. It gives space to our shooters and guys who can knock down shots and everybody is doing a good job of passing the ball and moving it around.”

It’s no coincidence that the Clippers’ improved shooting has coincided with their improved ball movement as most of Crawford and Barnes’ shots over the past two games have come uncontested.

“The ball movement on our team right now is just terrific,” Rivers said. “When you’re that unselfish with that many good players, a lot of good things are going to happen.”

When Paul was sidelined for over a month, he was able to see the game differently and to think about how players like Crawford and Barnes could get the open looks that have made them dangerous over the past two games. It’s a small sample size but it could be the start of something big.

“It’s one thing Doc keeps staying on me about, pitching it ahead and making sure the ball is moving and popping,” Paul said. “One thing our staff always says is the ball finds energy. When I was hurt I was really able to see what our team was capable of and we’re still figuring it out but now it’s more so about knowing when to pick my spots and moving the ball around. It’s been great. It’s been our ball movement. We’re getting great looks and at times we’re playing at the right tempo but we have to keep putting it together.”