“This is the match up they wanted Jamal Crawford on Joe Johnson.” is what Doug Collins said as he reviewed the slow motion video of Johnson hit a game winning runner to take the first game match up between the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers.
However, that may be true, but if you paid attention to the match up during the actual game (or watched NBA.com’s highlights of Joe’s night), you’ll see that it wasn’t Crawford giving up points to Johnson all night — it was the Clipper’s star forward Blake Griffin. Every. Single. Time. Johnson torched Griffin with threes, breakdowns and one handers near the paint, to the tune of 19 point of his 21 points.
Even on the last play, it was Griffin that was on Johnson before he switched off to allow the final play to occur. Another poor defensive decision. Watch this highlight clip of Johnson’s 8 field goals and notice which Los Angeles Clipper not doing his job:
Yes, I blame Griffin on the last play too. Everyone knows that teams target Crawford, so he should be well aware of the switch is coming and fight over it. Instead, he puts little effort to get over the Joe Ingles screen (or prepare for it).
By my count, Griffin played good defense twice on the video — once when he was helping out on a drive in the first half, and the other when Johnson broke Griffin down. The other times? It’s mostly Griffin finding himself too deep in the paint to recover on Johnson and the three times when he flails for a steal (that he never gets), exposing himself and leaving one of the game’s best breakdown players open for a three or giving up two steps.
After one of Blake’s defensive gambles (lunging for a steal) at a critical juncture of the game, Griffin can be found at half court while his teammates are trying to cover his slip up. That’s all Joe Cool needs as he takes his time, shoots a floater over a much-smaller Paul for a 94-89 lead with 1:09 remaining in the game.
You can see in the video that Griffin makes no attempt to get back into the play. In fact, he used his momentum to get to half court; hoping that the Clippers get the ball back so he could have a uncontested dunk. After ISO Joe hits the shot, you can see Chris Paul so visibly frustrated throwing his fist in disgust toward Griffin.
Just for context as to how out of it Griffin was in the second half? On the offensive play following that shot, Griffin shoots a three with plenty time left on the shot clock. Really?!
If I were a Clippers fan, I would be extremely concerned about Griffin’s defense. His defense is like virtual defense, it looks like it’s there, but it’s not really real or substantive.
Here’s how we view the problem with Blake’s defense; we diagnosed is one of three problems; 1) he lacks the discipline, understanding and/or training to play good team defense, 2) he doesn’t respect his opponent enough to put in the effort to defend them intelligently, or 3) thinks he’s the star of the team and going to do whatever he wants. Unfortunately, I think it’s a combo of #2 and #3 — an attitude you find with younger, less mature players. If that’s the case, will the Clippers be able to get him focused enough in time? The team’s (and Chris Paul’s) window is closing.
If it wasn’t so frustrating, it would be laughable — like 2016 James Harden defense laughable.