Clippers stick together
L.A. uses a combination of smart techniques to slow Golden State's pick-and-roll
LOS ANGELES -- It's no easy task defending the Golden State Warriors' patented pick-and-roll offense. Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry tend to shred weak-willed and ill-prepared teams on that end of the court by making good use of the inside-outside game.
The Miami Heat struggled mightily with it a week ago at home -- so much so that they gave up 72 points in the first half in a game they barely sneaked away with. The new-look Orlando Magic trailed by nine at the half against the Warriors two days after that, and a solid New Orleans Hornets team flat-out failed to stop the Golden State offense in a 38-point fourth quarter of a Warriors win late last week.
But the Los Angeles Clippers managed to do it with a surprising amount of success Sunday, holding the Ellis-Curry tandem to 19 percent shooting from the field and holding the rest of the Warriors in check in a 105-91 win over Golden State at Staples Center.
It was the worst shooting performance of the season for both Ellis and Curry, who combined to score only 21 points after entering the game averaging almost 45.
"No one man can just stop Monta Ellis or Stephen Curry," Clippers reserve guard Randy Foye said afterward. "You have to do it together."
So the Clippers did it together. But, still, how did they do it?
Simple: They stuck to their game plan, or "stayed to task," as Eric Gordon called it. First-year coach Vinny Del Negro, who's reaching his team on new levels in recent weeks, stressed the importance of keeping Golden State's David Lee and Andris Biedrins out of the key to his young big men, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. In accordance, Griffin and Jordan held strong, forcing Golden's State screens to occur outside the 3-point line. From there, Ellis and Curry were forced to either attempt a long, odd-angle 3 (they were 0-of-11 from there) or pass the ball off to Lee and Biedrins for similarly uncomfortable 20-footers.
Those four players -- four of the Warriors' top six scorers -- made eight field goals Sunday. That wasn't just an off day; that was a great defensive performance.
"We knew that those guys really get on screen-and-rolls and we knew how they work together with Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry," said Jordan, who finished with nine points, 13 rebounds and three blocked shots. "Those guys are real good, and we tried to contain them as much as possible."
"We tried to be big and just kinda wallop it up and take away the 3s as much as we could."
"What happened was our bigs made sure that Biedrins and Lee didn't get low and let them hang around in the scoring areas," Gomes said. "So we pushed up and made those guys set the screen above the 3-point line, which makes those shots when Curry and Ellis come off the screens tough shots -- especially that 3-pointer coming off the dribble to your right."
So that's the secret against the Warriors' pick-and-roll? Force the guards to catch the ball further away from the hoop so their immediate looks aren't so good and rotate well once they decide to pass?
"Exactly," Foye said. "But that's how Stephen Curry gets most of his points."
Not on Sunday. Curry was forced to be an offensive scavenger Sunday, going in and out of the game with foul trouble. Lee and Biedrins both fouled out late in the game, too.
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But the Warriors' problems went deeper than that.
"I think we did a good job on the glass, too," Gomes said. "That's why they couldn't leak up. Usually, they get up and they throw it to about midcourt or half-court and then the guards come at you and get you leaning one way."
Now the Miami Heat come to town Wednesday, bringing with them a host of different offensive challenges. The same team that struggled with the Warriors' pick-and-roll will boast a brutal three-headed attack.
But the Clippers (12-24) said they could use Sunday's experiences as a stepping-stone for more defensive success.
"It's not just with them; it's with everybody," Foye said. "It's with every good guard. And we've got a game plan for good post people, too. We've got Chris Bosh coming, we've got Dwyane Wade, LeBron [James].
"We're going to have a different, good game plan for them."
Final notes: Griffin broke the franchise record with his 23rd consecutive double-double Sunday after posting a 23-point, 12-rebound line. It was announced to cheers from the crowd after the final buzzer. As a team, the Clippers only shot one-half of 1 percent better than the Warriors. But that was largely the fault of a bench that shot a collective 6-of-26 from the field. Gordon and guard Baron Davis combined for 42 points on 30 shots. Former Clippers and Lakers forward Vladimir Radmanovic was booed almost every time he touched the ball. He finished with four points in 21 minutes.