Clippers take Roy out of equation
LOS ANGELES -- There's been a lot of discussion about what kind of identity the Clippers should adopt as an offensive unit. Are they a post-up team that should run their offense through center Chris Kaman on the block? Are they a drive-and-kick team that should look to create open shots and driving lanes for Eric Gordon? Should they liberate their veteran point guard Baron Davis, who thrives in an up-and-down game?
The answer Monday night in the Clippers' 105-95 win over Portland was all of the above.
Kaman dominated down low, beating the Trail Blazers in single coverage, against double-teams, and with timely kick-outs to open shooters on the arc. Gordon had a 16-point third quarter, both from long range and with forceful drives to the rack. And Davis paced the Clippers with some fast breaks and early offense.
But as potent as the Clippers' scoring attack was against a depleted Trail Blazers squad, it was the team's smothering defense on Brandon Roy that made the strongest impression. In 40 minutes, Roy finished with only six points on 3-for-12 shooting from the field, and didn't get to the foul line once.
The Clippers besieged the Trail Blazers' star with a multifaceted attack. First and foremost, they were dead set on keeping the ball out of his hands whenever possible.
"They did a good job of denying me the basketball," Roy said. "I should've been more aggressive. Some of it was fatigue, but I give [the Clippers] credit."
"It was a total team effort trying to not let [Roy] get easy catches in good spots for him," Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said. "He's so good at rising up and shooting the ball once he gets inside the paint."
When Roy was able to get his hands on the rock, the Clippers swarmed him immediately with quick double-teams.
"When he gets up top, it's easier to trap him," Gordon, who was one of the primary defenders on Roy, said. "He likes to use a high screen, and if you trap him right up there, it slows down everything."
The Trail Blazers' evening wasn't a total failure offensively. The Clippers made a deliberate decision to send help off the Blazers' supporting cast, which allowed Portland to shoot over 50 percent from the floor as a team. Rookies Jeff Pendergraph and Dante Cunningham combined for 15 points on 7-for-9 shooting for Portland, and Martell Webster had a big night with 25 points, including a 5-for-9 performance from beyond the arc.
"We sent help to [Roy] when he put the ball on the floor," Dunleavy said. "Martell Webster got some shots because of the help we were trying to give to Roy, but we did a better job later in the game tightening up on that as well."
The Clippers were more than willing to live with the collateral damage caused by Portland's third and fourth options.
"They're playing a lot of rookies and other guys who normally don't play as much," Gordon said. "We'd rather have someone else shoot the ball more than [Roy], because if he gets going, it's hard to slow him down."
Gordon ran into some foul trouble, forcing Dunleavy to turn to swingman Ricky Davis for relief. Although Davis isn't known as a defensive stopper -- and has logged more than a few DNP-CDs in recent weeks -- he turned out to be a catalyst in the Clippers' Roy-by-committee effort.
"I thought Ricky Davis did an excellent job forcing [Roy] to shoot long jumpers," Baron Davis said. "Then our big guys were closing out and didn't let him get to the bucket."
Baron Davis took a turn at covering Roy as well, running over screens and pushing Roy away from the hole. Davis isn't always the most engaged defender, but Monday night he used his strength and smarts to help keep Roy at bay. When Roy got a step on Davis, the recovery was quick, as Davis funneled Roy to a bigger help defender.
Baskets came easy for the Clippers, as they racked up 105 points on 90 possessions -- good for a 116.7 offensive efficiency rating. Will that performance help them clarify who they are offensively?
But if their recent victories over Boston, Philadelphia and now Portland are any indication, the Clippers might want to look at the other end of the floor as they craft their identity as a team.