CLIPPERS PUT TOGETHER EFFICIENT NIGHT
Prior to the Clippers, 88-71, exhibition win over the Golden State Warriors Monday night at Staples Center, Head Coach Vinny Del Negro said he will know intuitively when his team hits its stride.
“I’m a big believer in trusting your eyes because you kind of know when it looks right,” Del Negro told the media. “For the most part, I feel pretty good about where we’re at.”
About three and a half hours later he might feel even better about where the Clippers stand, and more so where they are headed.
They were efficient, potent, and while it was far from perfect, they looked dominant in several flurries in the first three quarters.
“I thought our ball movement was good,” Del Negro said after the game. “We controlled our turnovers better. We came out with some good intensity in the third quarter and controlled the lead and Chris [Paul] pushed the tempo well.”
Pushing the tempo has been a point of emphasis for the Clippers throughout camp. A week ago, Paul said he felt as though the team played too slow at times last season. On Monday, they controlled the pace and the ball. Blake Griffin and Paul combined for 15 assists and the Clippers assisted on 25 of their 36 made field goals.
They did not commit their first turnover until 10:39 into the first quarter, the starters went 33:43 before their first miscue and the Clippers had just five overall in the first three quarters, none leading to points for the Warriors.
“Last year we were second in the league in [fewest] turnovers,” Paul said of the team’s 13.3 turnovers per game in 2011-12. “Me as the point guard, that’s my job to make sure we get a shot every time down and I pay a lot of attention to it.”
But it wasn’t just the lack of turnovers that stood out. The defense helped ignite an offense that shot 52.4% in the first quarter, scoring 27 points. They made several plays at the rim and got into their offense early in numerous possessions. Griffin, who was 6-for-10 in the game for 14 points, made two layups and DeAndre Jordan converted three dunks, including an otherworldly alley-oop from Paul where he caught the ball with his right hand and threw it down while scissoring his legs back and forth.
Still, much of the Clippers’ offensive success was predicated on their defensive effort, or Golden State’s lack of proficiency from the field. The Warriors shot just 31.8% through the first three quarters and trailed by as many as 28 points.
“I think that our defense dictates our offense,” said Willie Green, who had a 3-pointer in the first quarter and scored six points on the night. “When we get stops then we can run. That’s when Blake’s at his best, myself, DJ [Jordan], Caron [Butler], everyone on our team. When we’re getting stops, making teams miss and not taking the ball out [of the net] all the time, then we can run a little bit more and push the tempo.”