Clippers See Lakers in Mirror

by Jeff Fogle 18. January 2011 01:16

It's extremely likely that this is just a temporary image. But, over the past few weeks, the LA Clippers and the LA Lakers have been virtually interchangeable.

I'm writing this early in the Lakers/Thunder game Monday Night. At this moment:

*The Clippers are 10-4 their last 14 games, while the Lakers are 9-5 over that same stretch.

*The Clippers have been enjoying a very friendly schedule, with 12 straight games played in the state of California. That would be stacking the deck in their favor, except the Lakers have just played 11 of 12 in California!

*The Clippers have an efficiency split of 108.2 on offense and 103.5 on defense (using averages) over their last 13 games prior to today. The Lakers are at 107.8 on offense and 100.3 on defense over their last 13 games. that's a bigger differential for the Lakers, but it's also inflated by the scrimmage against the Cavaliers. Pencil in a normal blowout instead of a game against cadavers, and we're very close again.

*These two teams played each other over the weekend as you probably know, and it was the CLIPPPERS winning in the hometown arena they both share.

It would be crazy to suggest the Clippers have become the Lakers. They're playing at their peak right now in terms of health, energy, and rest. You get the sense the Lakers are pacing themselves so they're ready for the playoffs. Blake Griffin wants to dunk on people's heads NOW! Kobe Bryant wants to break hearts a few months down the road.

Still, it's an amazing turnaround for a team that started the year 1-13. In terms of efficiency differentials, the Clippers were basically Minnesota over those first 14 games. Then, they had an 11-game stretch where they were maybe Charlotte or Golden State. In the hunk of games we discussed today, they're matching the Lakers.

It will be very interesting to see how the Clippers perform when the schedule starts to include some travel again. They'll visit Portland, Dallas, and Houston before the end of the month. Then, from February 4-23rd, there's a staggering 10-game road gauntlet that will hit Miami, Orlando, New York, Oklahoma City, and New Orleans. Within that gauntlet, there's a little dunk contest that you might want to check out too...

Transition Points

*Chicago beat Memphis today 96-84, despite missing Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah. We talked the other day about common sense assessments for defensive players. Given that the team played great defense today...and those guys weren't available...we have to assume that Taj Gibson is the defensive player of the year! The 6'9" forward out of USC had 6 blocked shots, 7 rebounds, and the best plus/minus for the Bulls on the day with +16. Starting Memphis forwards Zach Randolph and Rudy Gay were 8 of 30 from the field.

*I was playing around with the stat pages this afternoon...and got to thinking about something I heard people talking about last year regarding the best and worst places to shoot from on the floor. I think there's a general consensus that the smartest teams tend to focus in close or behind the arc because of the percentages. The smartest defenses want to force jump shots from the 16-23 foot range because those are the least dangerous in the big picture.

FEWEST OFFENSIVE SHOTS PER GAME FROM 16-23 FEET
1...Orlando 14.2
2...LA Clippers 14.9
3...San Antonio 16.1
4...New York 16.8
5...Houston 16.8

So, that's Orlando's productive model...the brainy dynasty of the Spurs...the respected offensive wisdom of Mike D'Antoni, and the scientific revolution in Houston all cracking the top five. Good sign for the theory.

MOST SHOTS FORCED PER GAME FROM 16-23 FEET
1...Indiana 24.2
2...San Antonio 22.9
3...Houston 22.5
4...Atlanta 22.4
5...Orlando 22.2

On the defensive side, San Antonio and Houston show up again. Indiana's improving defense tops the league. Orlando's stellar defense is in the top five. Again, a good sign for the theory.

Milwaukee doesn't follow this approach, and they were in Houston today.
Offensive side: Houston 5th, Milwaukee 19th
Defensive side: Houston 3rd, Milwaukee 17th

Houston beat Milwaukee 93-84, thanks mostly to a 22-5 edge in made free throws (on 28-11 in attempts) that we can deduce came from attacking the basket rather than settling for jumpers.

*We mentioned the other day (in that common sense defense article linked above) that Dallas had statistically turned into Detroit with the absence of Dirk Nowitzki and Caron Butler. Today, they played Detroit, and couldn't win even with Nowitzki back!

Detroit grabbed a 103-89 victory, Nowitzki scored 32 points, but his balky ankle may be affecting his defensive movement. Detroit shot a stunning 62% on two-point baskets and won rebounding. Detroit shouldn't shoot 62% inside the arc vs. anybody.

That was the sixth straight loss for Dallas. The Mavs are also 2-9 their last 11, which is when Nowitzki got hurt.

*There were two Superleague games on Monday (games matching the top 12 teams we isolated for study a couple of weeks ago, and updated most recently here). Boston beat Orlando 109-106 early in the evening. Oklahoma City at the LA Lakers was a late start. Boston is now 11-5 in the Superleague, while Orlando has dropped three straight (all on their current road trip) to fall to 7-10.

Inside defense has been a surprising concern for the Magic on this trip.

ORLANDO'S RECENT 2-POINT DEFENSE
58% allowed at Dallas (without Nowitzki)
48% at New Orleans
58% at Oklahoma City
47% at Minnesota
65% at Boston

Not a good sign for playoff hopes if the internal defense suffers that much when Hedo Turkoglu is in the lineup.

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Karma's a Chameleon

by Jeff Fogle 13. January 2011 02:09

Boy, LeBron, you didn't think that was going to come back to bite you?

Just hours after tweeting about what karma was doing to the Cleveland Cavaliers, LeBron James was reminded that karma can be swift and painful when you take it for granted.

Miami fell to the LA Clippers Wednesday Night 111-105, in a game that saw a few of our recent storylines continue:

*The Clippers are still playing well during their extended stay in California. They've been there awhile...and they won't leave until a game in Portland on January 20th. This win brought them to 8-3 their last 11 games overall. Does anyone even remember the 1-13 start?

*Blake Griffin had another double double, with 24 points and 14 rebounds.

*Baron Davis was once again a significant contributor with 20 points and 9 assists in 33 minutes.

*Miami again tried to toy with an opponent in the first half before exploding in the second half. Their toying created an 18-point hole that they were temporarily able to dig out of...before fading away in the final minutes.

Too bad it wasn't a national TV game. Fans in attendance loved the show. It's definitely a performance that would have helped Blake Griffin surge to hero status nationally in a thunderbolt. ESPN and ABC hadn't planned on showing many Clippers games this year. We may see some tinkering with the schedule from this point forward...particularly if Griffin performs as expected in the Slam Dunk contest during the All-Star Break.

Transition Points

*We had two Superleague games Wednesday Night. New Orleans beat Orlando 92-89 in overtime (tied 81-all after regulation). Utah beat New York 131-125.

It was notable that Orlando looked mortal for the first time in a while after a blistering run. Unsurprisingly, it happened on a night where Hedo Turkoglu was 2 of 10 from the floor, and had only four assists in 32 minutes. Dwight Howard was 13-19 from the floor, so it's not like Turkoglu didn't have a target. Only three rebounds for Turkoglu too. Don't want to say he's the straw that stirs the raki. But, Hedo does seem to be a linchpin player at this point.

New York is now 5-8 in the Superleague, and they showed again tonight why they're going to have real problems in the playoffs. No inside defense! Jazz players listed at forward or center in the ESPN boxscore were 29 of 41 on two-point baskets, 71% shooting. Good luck with that against anyone in the East who matters come playoff time.

*There were three double hermits on the schedule (games where both teams were off Tuesday and Thursday). Atlanta/Toronto became one when the Hawks originally scheduled Tuesday Night matchup with Milwaukee was postponed. Chicago/Charlotte and Memphis/Detroit were also double hermits. Atlanta basically matched expectations in Toronto, so no suprirse there.

Charlotte beat Chicago 96-91 to continue their successful recent run. The Bobcats are now 6-2 under Paul Silas. Be careful reading too much into that. As we mentioned at the time of the hiring, Charlotte was beginning a very easy schedule stretch. They've played only one road game since December 20th.

Victims in that 6-2 run include Cleveland, Detroit, Minnesota, Washington, and now a potentially fatigued Chicago team that's in the midst of a 10-game in 15 day stretch. The Bulls had a recent four-in-five stretch, and have another one beginning Friday.

To me the "clean" indicator here suggests Charlotte is a handful when fresh. Oh, another slow game tempo-wise for the Bobcats. Silas realized quickly he can't run with this team.

It's about to get tougher for the Bobcats. Their next six:
at Boston
vs. New Orleans
at Philadelphia
at Chicago
vs. Philadelphia
vs. Atlanta

Nice home and home with Philadelphia to help us get a read on those two potential second half surgers.

In the final double hermit, Memphis won at Detroit 107-99. The Pistons are 8-20 since a 4-6 start. Memphis is 4-2 its last six games, with three of the wins coming over Utah, Oklahoma City, and the LA Lakers. Looks like Memphis may be picking up its performance level.

*Dallas dropped another game without Dirk Nowitzki in the lineup, falling to 102-89 to an Indiana team that was in a back-to-back spot. The Mavericks are now 2-6 since the injury. I eyeballed the 7-game medians prior to tip off on offensive and defensive efficiency. The offensive midpoint was 101.2 (compared to a 106.2 full season park in points per 100 possessions). Defense was 103.3, down a couple of points from 101.1 for the season. So, Dirk's absence is hurting them more on offense than defense, which isn't a surprise.

Mavs shot just 41% tonight, and had more troubles in the second half.

Select second halves during the slump:
37 at Indiana
40 vs. Oklahoma City
41 vs. Portland
37 at Milwaukee
36 vs. Toronto

Dallas is in dire straits during crunch time with its current group.

See you again Thursday night...

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