The Los Angeles Clippers almost had its first halftime lead this season against the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday except for a last-second, 65-foot three pointer.
There was nothing head coach Vinny Del Negro could do about Dallas taking a 49-47 lead into halftime, but having some control of the game's ensuing 24 minutes is another story.
The Clippers (0-3) fell behind the Mavericks, 59-51, with 9:15 left in the quarter and Del Negro panicked. He quickly signaled for rookie Al-Farouq Aminu and backup center DeAndre Jordan, and that decision led to the Mavericks (2-1) outscoring them 29-19 in the third and never relinquishing the lead.
Del Negro's substitutions left two rookies (the other being Blake Griffin) guarding two of the NBA's premier offensive players, Dirk Nowitzki and Caron Butler. Since the Clippers run an inside-out offense rather employing a pick-and-roll strategy, Griffin now had major responsibility on both sides of the court.
I understand Del Negro has no other option than to put Griffin on Nowitzki, but putting him in a situation where he has to guard a nine-time NBA All-Star and the 2006-07 regular season MVP and run the offense is a bit too much for the 21-year-old.
As a result, it led to Griffin playing his worst game as a pro, shooting 4 of 15 with a game-worst negative-27 plus-or-minus ratio and a game-high 32:19-minutes played.
With the Clippers trailing 78-66 to start the fourth, Del Negro also chose to start Chris Kaman and four bench players against the Maverick's second team.
Del Negro should've put in Baron Davis, his best playmaker who sat out with 4:25 left in the third, with Kaman to see if his squad can cut the lead to something manageable.
Instead, Del Negro's second-half choices led to the Clippers to squandering off its best chance to win a game this season.
I understand the Clippers do not have an ideal bench depth, but the coach didn't put the team in the best position to succeed either.
Del Negro was fired in Chicago for mismanaging a Bulls lineup filled with talent. He might be fired with the Clippers for mismanaging a lineup with far less talent, too.
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