‘BACK TO THE BASICS,’ THE CLIPPERS FOCUS ON DEFENSE
PLAYA VISTA – Mired in a four-game losing streak, the Clippers, according to Caron Butler, got back to the basics during their hour-long practice Tuesday at the team’s training facility.
“We got back to the basics today,” Butler said. “[We] got in here and went through practice and went over some rotations, some defensive things.”
The defensive side of the floor has required the Clippers’ most attention recently. After roaring out to an 8-2 start, holding seven of their first 10 opponents below 100 points, the Clippers have suffered from an extended defensive lapse. Opponents are shooting 8% better from the field during their four-game slide than they were a week earlier and teams are scoring 103 points per game in that same span.
After practice Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro pointed to a few lingering issues in his team’s execution. “[Opponents] are getting so much from penetration the last few games,” Del Negro said. “The closeouts are poor [and] we’re giving up too much middle penetration.”
It was perhaps none more evident on Monday night when the New Orleans Hornets made 15 of their 25 3-point attempts, one shy of the record for a Clippers opponent, and routinely found open looks from other areas on the floor.
According to Del Negro, the defense is giving up too many easy baskets and when they do get a stop or get out in transition they are failing to capitalize. “We’re not finishing plays off when we need to, and we haven’t done a very good job of handling the ball in terms of our turnovers,” he said. “When we do get a stop we’re giving it right back to teams.”
In Monday’s loss, they scored just eight fast-break points, despite nabbing 11 steals and forcing 15 turnovers. Fast-break attempts at the rim were not converted and in a few instances errant passes or poor spacing caused the offense to have to reset following an initial push in transition.
“Our defense has to create our offense, which it was doing earlier in the season and we’ve got to do a better job with that, locking in defensively, having a more physical presence in the paint and on the perimeter,” Del Negro said. “If we do that, it will make the game easier. We’ll get out in the open court and make the game smoother for us.”
BUTLER LETS IT FLY
Butler set multiple records on Monday night with his 3-point shooting effort against New Orleans. He made nine of his 15 shots from behind the arc, including a 6-for-8 showing in the third quarter. The nine makes surpassed Randy Foye’s and Quentin Richardson’s team record of eight and he also set the franchise marks for the most threes made and attempted in a single quarter.
The performance came on the heels of a 4-for-15 shooting slump since he returned from a right shoulder strain.
“I felt like I came back a game or two too soon,” he said. “After getting back here and getting some treatment I felt a lot better. Prior to the game I was just like, ‘Let it fly.’”