Video Playbook: Clippers Crash The Glass On The Grizzlies
From just about any perspective, Game One was a disaster for the Grizzlies. In wasn’t just the 112-91 torching they suffered at the hands of the Clippers, it was the way their defense broke down in multiple ways. Two huge keys for the Grizzlies heading into this series were slowing down the Clippers’ pick-and-roll and keeping them off the offensive glass. Both areas were a huge disaster in Game One.
The heart of the Clippers’ offense is their exquisite and versatile pick-and-roll. This season their ball-handlers scored 0.85 points per possession in the pick-and-roll, the 2nd highest mark in the league. Screeners finished pick-and-roll possessions to the tune of 1.10 points per per possession, the 3rd highest mark in the league (per mySynergySports). But in their matchups this season the Grizzlies held the Clippers’ ball-handlers to 0.74 PPP and screeners to 0.93 PPP in the pick-and-roll. When those sets weren’t working it also made it difficult for the Clippers to find quality open shots around the perimeter.
But in Game One the Clippers completely flipped the script. Chris Paul and his backcourt compatriots were 10-14 from the field out of pick-and-rolls, scoring 29 points on 20 possessions. The Grizzlies frontcourt seemed strangely passive, sagging way off ball-handlers as they came around screens and leaving plenty of space for pull-up jumpshots. That may have been part of the plan, keeping both ball-handlers and screeners out of the lane, but there simply wasn’t enough of a challenge to those jumpshots to keep them honest. Pick-and-roll defense is a delicate balancing act between applying pressure and ceding space to protect the rim. On Saturday, it looked the Grizzlies overcompensated on the ceding space portion of the equation.
Pick-and-roll defense wasn’t the only place a lack of aggression and execution showed up for the Grizzlies. On the season the Clippers were one of the best in the league at collecting their own misses, with an ORB% of 28.8%. During the regular season the Grizzlies struggled to contain the Clippers on the offensive glass, allowing an ORB% of 29.9%, but Game One took things to the extreme. In their first matchup of the playoffs the Clippers missed 33 shots and collected 14 offensive rebounds, for an ORB% of 42.4%. Those second chances netted them 25 points, their margin of victory and then some.
The Clippers have an incredibly active and physical frontline and there’s no shame in giving up a handful of second-chance points to DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin. The problem is that pair combined for only 4 offensive rebounds in Game One and much of the damage on the offensive glass was by the Clippers’ wings. Here’s one example:
On their last possession of the first half the Clippers run a high pick-and-roll with Chris Paul and Ronny Turiaf. Paul reverses his dribble at the last minute, going away from the screen and making straight for the elbow. Matt Barnes is bent over in the corner, hands on his shorts, with Jerryd Bayless assigned to watch him.
As Paul hits the elbow he uses the space left by the recovering Keyon Dooling to pull up for a jumpshot. Dooling is in front of Paul and Darrell Arthur has dropped off of Turiaf, pretty well boxing in Paul. Despite that fact, Bayless has been sucked a step in towards Paul. With his attention on the ball, Barnes has a wide-open path to cut to the basket for the offensive rebound. Here’s the play in real-time.
This is one example, but it wasn’t the only one. Time and time again the Grizzlies’ perimeter defenders were caught ball-watching as the Clippers’ wings slipped behind them to snare easy offensive rebounds.
Bledsoe and Barnes are among the best offensive rebounders in their league at their positions, and they’ve been doing this sort of thing to opponents all season long. Again, the problem is that the Grizzlies were undoubtedly aware of this, but seemed completely caught off guard once the ball went up.
As much as any specific matchup, the ability to manage the little plays at the margin will be what separates the Grizzlies and Clippers. That Memphis put up so little resistance in areas that had to be circled on their list of priorities heading into the game is especially troubling. The good news (I guess) for Grizzlies fans is that their 21 point loss wasn’t a reflection of a 21 point gap in talent. They simply failed to take care of all the minutiae they needed to put the game on a level-playing field. The Clippers played a terrific basketball game, and I don’t mean to take anything away from their victory. However, with a little more attention to detail from the Grizzlies, the final margin could have been a lot closer.