While the Thunder awaken, the Clippers remain in search of themselves

It’s only the middle of December, but we might be seeing the Oklahoma City Thunder find themselves under first-year head coach Billy Donovan.

The Thunder haven’t just pounded the Memphis Grizzlies and dispatched the Atlanta Hawks over the past few days. The big thing to note with Oklahoma City is that it has defended well. If OKC can allow an average of 91 points per game, the Thunder will join the Warriors and Spurs atop the West and the NBA. It’s a small sample size, but as Marv Albert would say, the Thunder are “showing signs” right now.

In Los Angeles, the same cannot be said for the Clippers, following their 83-80 loss to the Chicago Bulls on Thursday night.


The Clippers are in search of themselves. Paul Pierce has struggled, and Lance Stephenson is his typically erratic self, unable to become what Doc Rivers hoped he would be. (The idea that Coach Doc is failing to motivate Lance — and is thereby undercutting what General Manager Doc envisioned for this team in the offseason — has a lot of merit. That’s another separate story.) Blake Griffin got tossed from the Bulls game for a hard foul on Taj Gibson (a foul Gibson shrugged off and handled quite graciously). Injuries earlier in the season, especially to J.J. Redick, have certainly not helped LAC’s cause.

Yet, for all of those hardships, you can see and feel that the Clippers aren’t entirely there.

Simply consider the end of the Bulls loss:

Respondents noted to the poster of this vine that DeAndre Jordan was intending to fake the high screen on the ball and set a staggered screen for Redick on the wing. Fair enough — it appears that’s what the Clippers wanted to do on their last possession.

However, consider two fundamental points: First and most significantly, Jordan never got to the place where he needed to set the screen to free up Redick for a game-tying three. He was in a much better position to actually set the high ball screen to liberate CP3 for a game-tying shot. Jordan was in no-man’s land. He looks like a headless horseman here.

Second, if Redick did get the ball, he would have been running away from the basket and would have had very little time in which to squeeze off his shot. Paul would have had the ability to sidestep and much more easily release a clean three.

The thought process from Coach Doc was discernible, but the timing and flow of the play were way off track, and Jordan was plainly late in getting to his needed spot.

Such is the dysfunction of the Clippers at the moment.

The Chicago Bulls — according to many — are just not very good. When I’m on #NBATwitter on gamenights, I see constant combinations of either grousing or sad lamentations from #BullsTwitter on the quality of Los Toros. The Bulls have been conspicuously ordinary so far this season; the Clippers’ inability to beat them speaks volumes, especially when you consider this next pair of stats:

A) Los Angeles has beaten only four teams with winning records so far this season.

B) The Clippers have beaten only two teams currently in playoff position in one of the two conferences (Memphis and Dallas in the West; Orlando and Detroit are just outside the top eight in the East).

Yes, we’re not even at Christmas, but with Oklahoma City improving, the Clippers better find themselves quickly. Otherwise, they’ll be the four seed in the West… which means the Warriors in the second round. Doc Rivers would much rather play the Spurs.

He won’t get that chance unless his team begins to play with a lot more intelligence… especially DeAndre Jordan.

About Matt Zemek

Editor, @TrojansWire | CFB writer since 2001 |