Clippers Take Wins As They Come, Show Great Offense Trumps Good Defense
As the pace has picked up for teams all around the league over the years, teams that actually pride themselves on playing defense have become a bit hard to find. Scoring about 130 points is no longer an anomaly with teams regularly putting up huge numbers offensively and somewhat living with whatever happens defensively. For Doc Rivers and the L.A. Clippers, a team that prides itself on defense with DeAndre Jordan manning the middle of the paint, Luc Mbah a Moute defending the wings, and Chris Paul imposing his feisty defense on opposing point guards, good defense won’t always show up in the boxscore or be the answer. That much was evident on Tuesday night when the Clippers took on the Washington Wizards.
Coming into the game, the Clippers had an offensive rating of 109.3 points per 100 possessions while allowing opponents to score 105.9 points per 100 possessions. While their offense rating ranked seventh in the league and defensive rating ranked 16th, L.A. boasted a net rating of +3.4 points (meaning they outscored their opponents by 3.4 points per 100 possessions).
Against the Wizards, the Clippers matched a season-high scoring 133 points, done two other times, but gave up 124 points in the process. When scoring at least 123 points this season, the Clippers had won all eight of those games. However, it was the first time all year L.A. was able to come away victorious after allowing more than 121 points, previously losing all eight games.
“It was an offensive game, neither team was getting stops,” said J.J. Redick. “There just wasn’t a lot of defense.”
It’s only fitting that on this night, the offensive display put on by the Clippers quartet of Paul (27 points), Jordan (23 points), Redick (31 points), and Blake Griffin (26 points) turned out to be historic. In the four years and 156 games they all played together, this was the first time ever the four players scored at least 20 points together.
Head coach Doc Rivers isn’t a fan of giving up that many points, but concedes to the give-and-take scenario that comes with putting up big numbers at times.
“You don’t ever want to give up 124 points, but you will when you score 133,” said head coach Doc Rivers after the win. “The objective in every game is to win the game [in any way]. Tonight, you could see it. They were playing great offense, we were playing great offense. This is one of those nights where you just win the game and live with it.
“At halftime, I told our guys, ‘you had 20 great possessions defensively and they scored [anyways]. Get over it.’ I don’t say that very often. I told them, ‘you actually played great defense several times and they scored anyway. So what? Get on to the next play.’
It wasn’t like the Wizards are slouches themselves. Since the calendar flipped over to 2017, the Wizards have been one of the best teams in the league, posting the second-highest win total in the league behind the Golden State Warriors while holding the fourth best net-rating at +4.1 points per 100 possessions. They came into the contest winners of four consecutive games and were just a-game-and-a-half behind the NBA Champion Cleveland Cavaliers as well as the Boston Celtics for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. Sometimes, better offense just trumps good defense.
“I thought we ran our offense really well,” said Griffin. “I thought at times, defensively, we could have been better, but I thought we did make them make tough shots. To their credit, they hit tough shots. I think we need to do a little better job of, once we get up, keeping teams out a little bit.”
Coming off of that gut-wrenching loss to the Sacramento Kings on Sunday, the Clippers came out ready to take their anger out on the Wizards offensively, fully knowing they needed a win to get back on track.
“In hindsight, it definitely looks like [we had a sense of urgency],” said Paul. “Obviously, we let one get away the other day, but we came out tonight and we competed. I think we played the right way and it was a good win for us. It’s about consistency. We have to do it again.”
With just six games left in the regular season, consistency will be crucial. Can the team win with a strong defensive game, but a rough offensive game? Can they win an offensive game like last night more often? Of course they can, but the question that remains to be answered with this team is whether or not they they can follow those up with another strong performance where they come away with a victory?
Despite their roller coaster of a month, the Clippers have shown, in spurts, the ability to do both successfully. Come playoff time, this team will need to be able to repeat those efforts if they hope to play into May and even June.
“It’s nice to beat a good team and a good team that’s been playing very well, but honestly, we have proven that we can do that this year. I don’t think our team fears anything,” added Doc Rivers. “We will take the win against a really good team, one of the better teams in the league, but we are still better than that and that’s what our team has to understand.”