Los Angeles Clippers: How to Lose to the San Antonio Spurs, by Vinny Del Negro
Step 1: Get Off to a Bad Start
The best way to achieve this is to forget about plays aimed at getting your star players in good position to score or get the ball.
Once you have provided your team with zero continuity on the offensive end, it will likely carry over to the defensive end, resulting in your team trailing by a significant margin to start the game.
Step 2: Transform Lob City Into a Post-Up, Back-to-the-Basket Team
Nothing screams transition basketball like multiple post plays run in succession!
Blake Griffin was given the ball in the post and was asked to beat the Spurs defense by himself.
The Spurs knew that DeAndre Jordan was not a threat to score, and their defensive strategy allowed for one extra player to leave his man and guard against the post on the help side.
As a result, Griffin posted the worst +/- on either team with -34 and a poor 41 percent field goal percentage to complement it.
Where was Chris Paul?
Why did he have such a bad game?
What part of Blake Griffin's game needs the most improvement?
Paul had fewer touches in the Spurs loss than in almost any game this season.
CP3 had his second lowest amount of assists (three) and field-goal attempts (six) of any game this season while tying his season worst for made field goals (one).
While the Spurs clogged the middle, forcing the Clippers to take and miss outside shots, they didn’t allow L.A. to penetrate the core of the defense.
Step 3: Don’t Make In-Game Adjustments...Ever
If Gregg Popovich's game plan was to jam the middle and force the Clippers to shoot outside shots, instead of giving up (because this coaching thing is too hard), Del Negro could have tried making adjustments.
To counter the Spurs’ sagging off shooters, Del Negro could have tried playing a smaller line-up filled with shooters who can actually make shots.
Step 4: Forget About Key Role Players on Your Team
Willie Green came off the bench after sitting for weeks to knock down two treys.
It would have been nice to see him when the game actually mattered, as he contributed solid minutes during the Clippers' perfect 16-0 month of December.
Not to mention, he did hold the highest +/- of anyone on the team at +7.
No matter how good Caron Butler plays, it isn’t good enough.
Fifty percent shooting from the field, a three, and shutting down their best small-forward scorer. That will earn you a solid 20 minutes from the field. No more, no less.
When Butler left the court, Danny Green's fingerprints were all over the scene.
As Barnes continues to slump shooting the three, and fail even more so on the defensive end, there is no shame in playing one of the all-time greats in Grant Hill.
Even though Grant doesn't have the athleticism Barnes has, sometimes defensive stops are more important than poorly taken three-point heaves.
Grant has shown in the extremely limited playing time he has seen, that he can guard some elite defenders (Carmelo Anthony) and knock down a mid-range jump shot every now and then.
DeAndre Jordan? He may as well not even bother hoping to play more than 20 minutes a game.
While he still does not possess tremendous discipline on defense, Del Negro seems to forget he has the most athletic center in the league ready to play offense… if he ever gets the ball.
In regards to that in-game adjustment thing*
If the Spurs are going to clog the lanes, and the small line-up is not working, have you considered taking your biggest player, and subsequently their biggest player as well, far out of the paint to set a high screen-and-roll for the leader and captain of your team?
I am aware that you like watching Blake dunk the ball....
But if you run the screen-and-roll with DeAndre Jordan, Blake can still dunk… off of a pass from DJ instead of Chris Paul.
The Clippers did not run a screen-and-roll into a high-low feed to Blake on a low seal even once this past game.
Step 5: Concede the Victory Before the Game is Over
When coaching a team that set an NBA playoff record for overcoming the largest deficit in a game (27 points), do not concede.
Phil Jackson, the greatest basketball coach of all time, frequently started the fourth quarter with his most athletic line up, often leaving typical conventions aside in favor of athleticism and speed or size.
Del Negro insists on starting every fourth quarter with five bench players.
The re-insertion of Clippers starters could have forced Popovich’s hand, making him put on the floor an older starting unit that is more prone to struggle in keeping a rhythm after a long rest on the bench.
Instead, Del Negro conceded the game, not playing any starters for the duration of the fourth quarter.
Step 6: Forget the Defensive Principles Your Team's Success is Founded Upon
The Clippers defense is usually extraordinary.
It is ranked No. 4 in opponents' points allowed, No. 5 in opponents' field-goal percentage, No. 1 in steals, and No. 1 in forced turnovers.
Yet the Clippers were barely able to force any turnovers, as the Spurs were passing the ball impeccably in the half court.
If only there was a way the Clippers could take advantage of their younger legs and try to prevent the Spurs from setting up in their half-court offense every time down the floor!
It’s called a press.
A half-court trap, a full court man-to-man press or a full-court zone press.
Any of these should at least be given a thought.
When your back-up strategies aren't working, it’s time to find one that does.
Why not try a 1-3-1 zone? Or a 3-2, with the way the Spurs were shooting.
Step 7: Fail to Motivate your Players
The Clippers, in no game of basketball, should ever be outplayed this badly. They simply have too much talent to ever be shut down the way they were, at home, two nights ago.
The Clippers, unlike their coach, did not stop trying.
However, they did not possess the killer instinct necessary to compete against a top-tier team like the Spurs.
The best teams in the NBA like the Spurs, Heat and Thunder all have great teams AND a great coach to lead them.
Look at what Tom Thibodeau has done without his superstar player in Chicago.
When Vinny Del Negro vehemently suggested that the Clippers organization should dismantle their current team in a feeble effort to earn more wins to secure his contract extension, it spoke plenty: to the amount of faith he has in this team, and to the kind of leader he is.
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