Starting 5: Del Negro’s can’t make adjustments, Doc Rivers can, & Big Al saves Utah


Every morning, we’ll give you five things from the night before in the NBA to start your day.

1:  The Del Negro watch is on

The Los Angeles Clippers… the sudden contenders upon acquiring Chris Paul… are now one game from being out of the playoffs.  The 8th seeded Houston Rockets are tied with the Clippers in the win column, and have just one more loss.  

The situation for the Clippers is dire, and the loss last night to the Hornets sure as hell didn’t help.  And when things fall apart this bad, this quickly, it’s on the coach to get it back together.  Vinny Del Negro, however, isn’t.  It’s not entirely his fault, but he’s getting most of the blame. 

The Clippers are still missing pieces on the floor… the glue guys… to will do dirty work, take (and make) the un-glorious mid-range shots, and get gritty on the defensive end.  Del Negro, meanwhile, hasn’t done a damn thing to make the current talent work better together.  There’s no wrinkle to throw at teams to get a few easy buckets.  There’s no adjustment to create a temporary fix.

Good coaches can be a little like MacGyver.  When all you’ve got is a paper clip and a stick of gum, you turn it into something that gets you out of a jam.  Vinny Del Negro would chew the gum and clean his finger nails with the paper clip while thinking to himself “man… I’m in a tough spot here…”  Yes, it’s on the players to play, which makes some elements of the head coach overrated.  But it’s up to the coach to observe from the sideline, recognize something, and instruct his players about the new plan.  If a general is watching his soldiers get killed on the battlefield, he doesn’t say “well, we just need to be better at shooting the bad guys.”  You make a new plan.  

Clippers management might have to show Vinny how it’s done.  

2:  Boston sets up a first-place showdown

Doc Rivers knows how to make adjustments.  After giving up 58 first half points to the Milwaukee Bucks, the Celtics decided to make a big defensive adjustment and switch on all picks, which the Celtics have never really done during Doc’s tenure.  The result?  33 points on 29.3% shooting in the second half for the Bucks… and a 100-91 Celtics win.

Now the Celtics are just a half game behind Philadelphia, whom they face tonight.  A win put the C’s into the division lead, at least for now, and pushes the Sixers down to the seventh seed.   To add to the drama, the Celtics have revenge on their minds, after Philly handed them the worst loss of the Big 3 era a couple of weeks ago.   


Jamaal Tinsley gets tricky with the inbounds play


Blake Griffin monster follow slam

Al Jefferson wins the game for Utah

4:  Line of the night:  Al Jefferson – 26 points, 7 rebounds, 4 blocks, 1 assist

I’m not sure who Utah’s color analyst is, but there’s no way that was a pass to Al Jefferson.  That was an airballed floater that Big Al was ready for.  Jefferson shot 13-19 in the win over Sacramento and the Jazz have now won five straight games while going 7-3 in their last 10 games.  The Jazz are just a half game out of the 8th spot and a game-and-a-half from 4th seeded Dallas.  Keep an eye on that bottom half out West.  That’s going to be a wild ride into the playofffs.

5:  You can quote me on that

“I’ll be ready.  My neck is still a little sore. I’ll continue to work on it and continue to have treatment. I thank the man above I was able to get up. It’s a little better today than it was yesterday.”
     –LeBron James, on his injured neck and elbow 

“That’s what a couple days off will do to me.  I get in there with some fresh legs. I had a little zip in my step tonight.”
     –Paul Pierce, after a 25 point, 9 rebound performance in Milwaukee  

“I think it looked a lot worse than what it was, but that’s still not a play that you ever want to do to another player like that.  I apologize to Blake Griffin. I didn’t want to hurt him at all. I just wanted to try and cut off his lane to the basket.”
     -Hornets forward Jason Smith, on the flagrant 2 foul on Griffin.