Jordan Looks Energized As Clippers Pick-And-Roll Their Way Through Injuries
SACRAMENTO – DeAndre Jordan enters Friday night with a chance to accomplish something he’s never done before.
Jordan, who’s come alive on the glass with 20 rebounds in back-to-back games and three of his last five games overall, can record three straight 20-rebound performances for the first time in his career as the Clippers go for their third straight win in Sacramento.
He’s helped catalyze the jump defensively for the Clippers, who’ve held each of their last two opponents to worse than 44 percent shooting, and he’s controlled the paint both with rebounds and blocks, swatting away at least two shots in each of his last three games.
Jordan takes it upon himself to be the Clippers’ energy guy. When he’s engaged, his impact rubs off.
“You don’t to want to let a guy like DeAndre down,” Jamal Crawford said. “He’s our defensive anchor.”
But, he’s been more than that.
When looking back at what flipped the switch against Memphis, with the Clippers taking a double-digit deficit into halftime before exploding out of the half, outscoring the Grizzlies by 14 points in the third quarter, one thing in particular stood out to head coach Doc Rivers.
“Just middle pick-and-roll,” Rivers said.
The Clippers struggled to get much going during a six-game losing streak playing without Chris Paul and Blake Griffin and without J.J. Redick for some of it. But with the New Year, two shorthanded wins followed.
Neither took any monumental shifts in philosophy.
“None of that, like, ‘Oh, we’ve got to reinvent ourselves,’” Jordan said before the win against Memphis. “You’ve got to go out and play. I don’t think the formula’s different. The personnel may be different, but our principles and the way we play should still be same on both ends of the floor.”
As Rivers said, it was sparked Friday offensively by what the Clippers do best.
The Paul-Jordan pick-and-roll is one of the most lethal actions in basketball, but the Clippers haven’t had that luxury recently, with Paul missing seven of the last eight games. It’s been an adjustment on both sides of the floor, with new pairings and rotations.
But they still have Jordan.
With the Clippers struggling to get going against Memphis, they started wearing the Grizzlies down on pick-and-rolls, play after play, leaving the Grizzlies unsure when or how to help.
The Grizzlies needed to respect Austin Rivers, who scored a team-high 28 points, and Jamal Crawford, who added 22.
They needed to respect Redick, who scored 19 points and whose return from a sore hamstring meant teams couldn’t help off the backside, leaving more room for 1-on-1 opportunities for the Clippers’ attacking guards. Even if Redick sat in the corner, a Grizzlies player had to stay glued to him, unable to help when the Clippers crashed to the rim.
And they needed to respect Jordan, who rolled his way to 18 points and is always a danger to spark a group with his dunks.
“Losing always brings frustrations, because you can’t allow the same action to beat you different ways,” said Grizzlies center Marc Gasol. “You know, one time, the pick-and-roll guy handling the ball scores. The next time, the roller. Next time, the guy pulling behind. You have to stay on one thing and believe in it and accept you are giving up something on defense.”
Every time a screen was set, the Clippers had a few viable options at their disposal.
“Got a lot of usage out of that,” Doc said. “What I liked about it is our guys stayed with it. We have this habit of a play working and going somewhere else instead of sticking with the play.”
That wasn’t a problem Friday, particularly early in the third, when Doc noticed Crawford telling Austin to go middle pick-and-roll play after play.
But with Jordan hauling in 20 rebounds on consecutive nights, the normal pick-and-rolls took some occasional tweaking.
“What it says is he’s under the basket more,” Doc said. “One of the things we thought after coming back from the trip, we had him setting picks and catching the ball at the top of the key too much, especially in transition.
“If you notice, Luc (Mbah a Moute) was setting a lot of the picks (Friday) and DJ was under the basket. He’s like Shaq in some ways. If our guards get to the basket, if you help off of DJ, throw it up to the rim and he’s going to get a dunk. If you don’t help, we get the layup. I thought that really helped us.”
In the process, Jordan’s joined the company of Shaquille O’Neal in another way, as well. Friday’s performance gave Jordan his 35th career 20-rebound game – the most in Clippers history and tied with O’Neal for 10th all-time.
With Mbah a Moute roaming at the top of the key to set picks and Jordan off on the near block ready to put back any misses, Austin had all the room he needed in the key to operate, posting nine of his 28 points and five of his seven assists in the comeback third quarter.
When Austin or Mbah a Mbate left the floor, the middle pick-and-roll didn’t stop. Doc said there’s a skill to being able to find a roller such as Jordan; Crawford has shown it perhaps better than anyone on the Clippers other than the two injured superstars.
“People do forget he started his career off as a point guard,” Doc said. “We had J.J. on the backside, so we knew they weren’t going to help off the backside, and DJ did a great job of rolling.”
The Clippers found ways to get Crawford on the move, creating situations where defenders needed to make a choice between halting Crawford’s progress and defending the rim from Jordan. That left them vulnerable, and Crawford took advantage throughout the second half.
All four of Crawford’ assists went to Jordan, as the NBA’s leading dunker sealed off the win in the fourth.
After Jordan’s recent stretch, no other player in the Western Conference is averaging as many rebounds per game as him (13.5) and no one in the league has as many as his five 20-plus rebound games.
That’s something Kings head coach Dave Joerger is likely well aware of as the two teams meet again Friday night.
“His IQ continues to grow, because he wants to be really good,” Joerger said the first time the Kings and Clippers met this year. “He’s out there, he’s loud, directing traffic, funneling everything to him. My hat’s off to him – where he came in as a 19-year-old guy…you’ve seen the growth of what he’s done.”