New look Clippers looking for defensive groove

In preseason opener at Staples Center, Los Angeles start fast, but can't keep up with Portland's perimeter offense

Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin goes to the basket against the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday, Oct. 7, 2017. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline

The Los Angeles Clippers were unable to defend their home court, falling 134-106 to the Portland Trailblazers on Sunday. The loss comes after an impressive win over the Toronto Raptors in which the Clippers seemed to be firing on all cylinders, but it seemed their defensive motors stalled out in their third preseason game as they gave up 99 points through three quarters.

“I liked the first six minutes of the game, and then I didn’t like the game so much after that,” Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said. “I liked our pace…Usually when you have 87 points at the end of the third you’re really happy, but I wasn’t because of our defense.”

The Clippers’ Lou Williams glides into the middle of the Trail Blazers defense on Sunday, Oct. 7, 2017. Photo by Dennis J Freeman/News4usonline

“We’ve played three games, one game we played really good defense and we kept scoring, the other two games we played really good offense and we didn’t play good defense, so we got to have a balance. And right-now I think that the pace we’re creating is hard to play, and it’s hurting our defense.”

Despite jumping out to a 15-3 lead in the first quarter thanks to Deandre Jordan’s low-post scoring and a pair of Wesley Johnson 3-pointers, the Clippers lost control of the game during a second period that saw Portland’s Damion Lillard score 16 points. LA was never able to regain control, at one point trailing by as many as 19 points in the third quarter.

Griffin was solid overall, putting up 15 points, four rebounds and 6 assists in 24 minutes of action. The five-time All Star became the Clippers’ main focal point after losing Chris Paul to the Houston Rockets this summer.

“I thought we started out the game really well, but we did a poor job ending the first quarter and then pretty much from then on out,” Griffin said.

The All-Star forward was unhappy with the Clippers’ defensive effort throughout their first three preseason games, naming several areas in which they can improve before the season starts.

“Work on rotations, work on missed assignments, communication, help D. There are a lot of ways [to improve], we will watch the film, figure it out and get better. We just got to do a better job in transition, stopping the ball first. Our set defense is going to be pretty solid, but we got some things to clean up.”

The Clippers played their first home game of the preseason at Staples Center on Sunday, Oct. 7, 2017. Photo by Dennis J Freeman/News4usonline

Without Paul, Griffin has become LA’s most dangerous playmaker. His ability to penetrate the defense, manipulating their rotations until he finds the open man is irreplaceable in the frontcourt. With elite athleticism and speed to match his deceptively solid ball handling skills, Griffin is vital in facilitating the team’s offense. When he turns the ball over like he has during the preseason however, his bull-in-a-china-shop playstyle can become counter-productive.

“I need to do a better job of taking care of the ball, Griffin said. “I’ve had way too many turnovers, the last two games especially. I need to tighten all that up. Some of that is just rhythm, I never played a lot of five on five this summer, and it is something that I would love to get better at.”

Rivers remained confident in his star, acknowledging that the entire team has struggled with the ball thus far.

“He just needs to play,” Rivers said. “Turnovers have been high, and he forces and over dribbles a couple of times. Other than that, we want him to be aggressive, we want him to shoot threes, we want him to push the ball up the floor, but we want all of them to value the ball, and I don’t think any of us are doing a very good job of that.”

The Clippers are still missing Austin Rivers and Danilo Gallinari due to health reasons, both players are expected to play significant team roles. LA has two more preseason games remaining to prepare for the upcoming season and adjust to the new faces around the organization.

 

Joey Thomas
About Joey Thomas 26 Articles
Joey Thomas is a Los Angeles native and an NBA junkie. Follow him on twitter and instagram @joeythomasss

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