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Lou Williams Crunch Time Defense

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Lou Williams Crunch Time Defense 

Post#1 » by Quake Griffin » Wed Mar 11, 2020 3:03 pm

Clever reactions to aggressive situations

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Re: Lou Williams Crunch Time Defense 

Post#2 » by Dynamix » Wed Mar 11, 2020 4:58 pm

Lou Williams’ crunch-time defense is officially a problem

Lou Williams’ defensive limitations are well known. His defense is the reason that, despite being such a gifted scorer and playmaker, he’s come off the bench in 936 of his 1,054 career games over 15 seasons. Williams and Doc Rivers have joked about the other side of the ball multiple times in Los Angeles.

But Williams’ defense wasn’t funny against the Lakers.

It was a problem — a problem the Lakers continually exploited. A problem other smart, good teams, like the Celtics and 76ers, have exploited in recent weeks. A problem the Clippers will certainly face in the deeper rounds of the playoffs.


It’s a problem the Clippers will need to resolve, either in the form of a quirky defensive scheme or, more reasonably, benching Williams altogether over the final five to seven minutes of important games unless he’s unconscious offensively (and on Sunday, he was not).

The Lakers hunted Williams, using the player he was defending, typically Kentavius Caldwell-Pope or Avery Bradley, as a screener for LeBron James. That would either force Williams to switch onto James — a no-no — or scramble back to the screener, who could pop or roll into space.

With Bradley playing the game of his post-Boston life (a season-high 24 points), that was an issue. Caldwell-Pope is shooting nearly 40 percent from deep this season.

Here are some of Williams’ costly miscues in the fourth.

On this possession, Rajon Rondo calls for a screen from Caldwell-Pope, forcing Williams to make a decision on how to defend the action. He doesn’t make much effort to show or recover initially — shoving Caldwell-Pope into open space, actually — only to wildly closeout on Caldwell-Pope and watch him blow by Williams for a runner.

This is where the Lakers’ targeting of Williams became obvious. James waves off an Anthony Davis screen — Anthony Davis! — to call for Williams’ man, Caldwell-Pope, to screen for James.

This time, Williams over-shows, leaving Caldwell-Pope wide open at the top of the arc. James doesn’t pass and initiates another screen. Williams, still trailing Caldwell-Pope, over-shows again, this time allowing Caldwell-Pope to pop into an opening. Williams gets blown by again as Caldwell-Pope darts toward the rim and lays the ball in.

And here, the Clippers switched Williams onto Bradley, hoping that might stop the bleeding (he’s not as good of a driver or finisher as Caldwell-Pope). But it didn’t.

James once again called for a ball screen from Williams’ man. Williams over-shows yet again, leaving Bradley wide open for another trey.

It’d be one thing if Williams was cooking offensively. But he had an off shooting night, scoring just seven points on 3-of-11 shooting as the Lakers stymied the Williams-Montrezl Harrell pick-and-roll for the second straight matchup. If Williams isn’t contributing offensively, he’s often a glaring minus.

After the game, Rivers was asked about the decision to stick with Williams late and the possibility of closing the game with the defensive-minded Patrick Beverley instead.

“I didn’t think Pat was having a great game tonight, honestly,” Rivers said. “We were down, we needed points. I thought he started it before Lou came on the floor and then he stayed with it, which they should have. We could have trapped. We could do a lot of things, but what we were doing wasn’t right and that puts a coach in a tough spot.”
That answer ignores Williams’ own offensive struggles — he wasn’t much better than Beverley — and the gaping hole he provides to the Clippers’ defense. This is something the Clippers will have to address at some point or risk underachieving in the postseason because they’re playing 4-on-5 defensively.

Paul George shines with an aggressive style of attack

The most encouraging sign for the Clippers, in a macro sense, was George’s performance. He didn’t play against the Lakers on opening night and posted a stinker on Christmas Day (17 points on 5-of-18 shooting).

But George asserted himself from the jump. He slithered his way to the rim on multiple occasions, exploiting his size advantage against Green and Caldwell-Pope and Alex Caruso, and putting Davis and JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard on their heels as he relentlessly attacked the paint. It was a stark contrast from Christmas, when George was repeatedly blocked and stifled at the rim.

“Just was being in attack (mode), trying to put pressure on them, found some seams to get all the way to the basket, and I just wasn’t gonna settle tonight,” George said. “Just wanted to keep the pressure on and I found a crack early and I just saw a window where I could continue to keep attacking.”

That’s George zooming by James and colliding and scoring over Howard. That’s George exploding toward Davis and lofting the ball in over him.

George’s final line: Game-high 31 points on 9-of-16 shooting, 3-of-7 3-point shooting and 10-of-11 free-throw shooting to go along with six rebounds, three assists, three steals and one block in 37 minutes.

Through three quarters, he was the best player on the floor. Then, he disappeared, in large part because the Clippers’ stagnant, iso-heavy offense went away from him down the stretch and more toward Leonard, Harrell and Williams.

“I just thought the ball stuck tonight for whatever reason,” Rivers said. “That does not happen very often with us and it hasn’t happened but it did today. In some ways, it is probably good for us to see. You have to keep trusting everything you do offensively and I don’t think we did that well tonight.”

George added: “We should have had a little more player movement, which would have gotten the ball moving around. But that is just how the game goes.”

This was the best version of George — knifing into the paint, posting up smaller defenders, dominating in the pick-and-roll, hitting step-back 3s. The Clippers will need George playing at or near this level in the playoffs, especially against the Lakers. The fact that he was this aggressive and showed out on a national stage is promising.

The underbelly of when the offense stagnates

Here’s all you need to know about the Clippers’ offensive struggles: They finished with more turnovers (15) than assists (12).

“Forget the turnovers,” Rivers said. “(Fifteen) turnovers is not a lot. But when you don’t move the ball on top of that, you can’t win that game unless you just have an extraordinary night shooting, which we’re capable of. But in the long run, I know that is not how we want to play. We’re never going to win that way. There are teams that play that way. We’re not one of them. But we played that way tonight.”

There were moments on Sunday in which the Clippers’ role players were too shot-happy.

Morris forced a couple of mid-range jumpers. Reggie Jackson pulled up for a contested 3-pointer in transition. Beverley flung up wild floaters. Williams took his leaning lefty even when he was enveloped by a defender. Harrell tried post moves through a thicket of 7-foot arms.

The Clippers’ star tandem wasn’t perfect — Leonard never found his footing beyond the arc, and George was a non-factor in the fourth — but they’re allowed those luxuries as superstars. Their margin for error is wider.

The Clippers needed the others to step up offensively, which only Harrell and Jackson, to a lesser extent, did. But they also needed better ball movement, and better shot quality, and they never found it.

“They did a lot of switching,” Williams said. “When teams do a lot of switching, it just makes it difficult for the ball movement, for you to drive and kick, do the things we naturally do that makes us a great basketball team. And we didn’t adjust to it well.”

Don’t get it twisted: the Clippers are still the deepest team in the league. One off-game doesn’t change that. But when their shots aren’t falling and the extra pass isn’t made, they continue to be vulnerable offensively.

Anthony Davis shakes loose of the defensive game plan

Much has been made about the Clippers’ lack of frontcourt size, particularly against the gargantuan Lakers. But heading into Sunday afternoon, Davis was averaging 24.5 points — below his season average — on 42.1 percent shooting, including 27.3 percent on midrange jumpers and 12.5 percent on 3s, in the season series with the Clippers.

The Clippers’ defensive strategy against Davis has crystallized over the first three matchups.

The Clippers don’t want the Lakers’ All-Star big man to get easy baskets — lobs, drop-steps on the block into lay-ups or dunks, easy looks with deep position — dating back to their opening night bet. Patrick Patterson, Moe Harkless, Harrell, JaMychal Green, Ivica Zubac, Leonard and George each took turns on Davis and used varying approaches.

The Clippers want Davis to take jumpers. Any time he takes a perimeter shot, it’s a win for their defense (the same can be said for Rondo, too). The Clippers will encourage these types of looks, even if he makes them.

But Davis eventually found his groove, knocking in multiple jumpers, most of which were contested. When his jumper is on, there’s no sound defensive strategy for him.

On Sunday, Marcus Morris Sr. was Davis’ primary defender, with Harrell, Green, Leonard and Zubac sprinkled in. Zubac kept Davis away from the paint, but he, in turn, sprayed jumpers in the fourth-year center’s face.

The Clippers continued to throw different looks at Davis, with single coverage, early doubles, soft doubles, doubles off the dribble and backline zoning. He’s so darn good that sometimes it didn’t matter.

This shot, for example, is nearly impossible to defend.

But the biggest difference in Round 3, vs. Round 1 or 2, was James, who unlocked the best version of Davis.

Because James was active and engaged, putting pressure on the Clippers’ defense with his downhill attacks and ball screen actions, Davis was able to break free for easy baskets.

Those baskets are a direct result of James’ penetration and court vision. The Clippers’ point of attack defense against James needs to be better in the future. It probably starts, in part, with benching Williams in crunch time.

Davis finished with a team-high 30 points on 11-of-19 shooting. He won’t always shoot as well as he did in this game, but the Lakers can also find ways to get him easier looks closer to the basket. The chess match with Davis is far from over.

Uncharacteristic 3-point shooting woes

This was one of the Clippers’ worst shooting performances of the season. The Lakers deserve credit, as Rivers and his players acknowledged postgame.

The Lakers are one of the best defensive teams because of their sheer size and length in the frontcourt (Davis, McGee, James and Howard) and the quickness and ball pressure from their backcourt (Green, Bradley, Caldwell-Pope and Caruso). Their limbs were everywhere, swallowing up the Clippers’ passing lanes and clean looks.

With that said, the Clippers missed a ton of decent looks. The Clippers shot just 7 of 31 on 3-pointers (22.6 percent), including donuts from Morris (0 of 7), Green (0 of 2) and Landry Shamet (0 of 1). According to NBA.com, 25 of the 31 attempts were contested, which is a testament to the Lakers’ defense.

But to put the Clippers’ porous shooting into proper perspective: They had previously made seven or fewer 3s in five games this season. The Clippers went 3-2 in those games — the two losses were arguably their two worst of the season: vs. Memphis and at Atlanta — with four of the five contest coming at Staples Center. Furthermore, the Clippers shot 22.6 percent or worse in five games this season, going 4-1 in those tilts. They made seven or fewer 3s in four of the five.

All things considered, this was the Clippers’ fifth-worst 3-point shooting performance of the season. They’re unlikely to shoot this poorly again in a seven-game series. Rivers didn’t make any excuses afterward, though.

“They deserved the game tonight,” Rivers said of the Lakers. “They really did. The fact that we had chances was unbelievable to me. I really thought they had the better spirit tonight towards the game. And honestly, in the first two, I thought we had the better spirit in it. We’ll see them again.”
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Re: Lou Williams Crunch Time Defense 

Post#3 » by Clemenza » Wed Mar 11, 2020 6:07 pm

I'm fully down with Reggie taking some of his 4th quarter minutes.
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Re: Lou Williams Crunch Time Defense 

Post#4 » by esqtvd » Wed Mar 11, 2020 11:28 pm

It’d be one thing if Williams was cooking offensively. But he had an off shooting night, scoring just seven points on 3-of-11 shooting as the Lakers stymied the Williams-Montrezl Harrell pick-and-roll for the second straight matchup. If Williams isn’t contributing offensively, he’s often a glaring minus.



Well, duh. But Beverley was having an even worse game and we were down by 7. If we were up by 7, you go with Bev anyway. I subscribed to The Athletic for Jovan's stuff and I love his reporting and deep stats but not very impressed with his analyses.

I'm all for more Reggie but let's have him earn it first. If Lou or anybody else hits a couple more shots [or Bradley a couple less] this isn't even a discussion
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Re: Lou Williams Crunch Time Defense 

Post#5 » by clipperlover » Thu Mar 12, 2020 4:12 am

Reading the title of the thread, have to ask the obvious question:
When has that happened?
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Re: Lou Williams Crunch Time Defense 

Post#6 » by esqtvd » Fri May 22, 2020 3:37 am

Turns out Lou was a genius. He invented the COVID defense--stay a social distance 6 feet away from your man.

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