CLIPPERS TALK CHALLENGE OF DEFENDING MELO
LOS ANGELES – The Clippers have faced a number of defensive challenges through the first 15 games of the season.
They’ve dealt with Golden State’s 3-point prowess, the Dwight Howard-James Harden combination, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kevin Love and so on.
From an individual standpoint, though, they may face their toughest challenge Wednesday night.
Carmelo Anthony, who is second in the league in points per game and coming off a 34-point effort against Portland on Monday, is arguably the league’s most gifted all-around scorer.
“Melo is a tough defensive assignment because he’s strong,” Blake Griffin said. “That first step is quick and obviously he can get his shot off any time. You know, one-on-one defense is a good test, but really being involved and really being a good defensive player is more than just that. It will be a good test individually for whoever is guarding him, but we’ve got to do a good job team-wise.”
The Knicks utilize more isolation plays than any team in the league. That starts with Anthony, who accounts for more than 40 percent of New York’s iso possessions, but also includes reigning Sixth Man of the Year J.R. Smith.
“It starts with the individual,” J.J. Redick said of defending skilled isolation players. “The guys guarding J.R. and Carmelo are going to have to be solid, but in terms of help defense, we’ve got to be in our spots. It’s tough to contain really good individual offensive players. You have to rely on your help and trust that the guy behind you is going to have your back.”
A season ago, Anthony scored 38 points in three quarters against the Clippers in New York on Feb. 10, but was relatively shut down in the fourth by Grant Hill, who worked to deny Anthony easy catches in what Jared Dudley called Anthony’s “sweet spots.” Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said, though, that no matter what Hill did in that game last February, stopping Anthony is much easier said than done.
“If it was easy to stop him we wouldn’t be talking about him,” Rivers said. “I’ve always said that. If it was easy to stop LeBron [James] and [Kevin] Durant then we wouldn’t mention them much. The reason they’re great is because everyone's tried everything and they still score. You try to limit his catches as much as possible, you try to make him work for his catches and you can do all that and he can still go for 40. That’s why he’s Carmelo. That doesn’t mean we want him to do that and if does that we hope he takes 40 shots to do it.”
As Redick alluded to, it will likely be more on help defense than any one player defending Anthony on his own.
“Technically, it’s just knowing where your help is and constant communication,” said Ryan Hollins, who has played more games in Rivers’ defensive system than any other member of the Clippers. “Sometimes your help may be coming from the guard up top, sometimes it might be from the big on the baseline, sometimes the big may come late. You’ve got to know that the guy’s going to be there and trust that the guy who goes is covering for him.”
On Wednesday, Dudley will start out on Anthony. When he goes to the bench, rookie Reggie Bullock could get a crack at it and Rivers may turn to Griffin at times.
Regardless of who is checking Anthony, Dudley provided what he called a “Shane Battier” checklist on defending Anthony.
“He has his sweet spots and finds a way,” Dudley said. “I’d rather him catch the ball at the 3-point line than the little 17-18 foot [spot]. I’m someone who wants him to put the ball on the floor. I don’t want him to get those jab step jumpshots. That’s how he gets into a rhythm. I try to keep him out of the middle. He loves to contact and get fouls. I want to keep him off the free throw line, so it’s just position defense and relying on someone like [DeAndre Jordan] to help me out when he gets all the way to the basket. But also it’s making him work. So, when the ball goes up it’s me running in transition. He’s someone that likes to concentrate a lot on offense, so I have to make him work on defense.”