The LA Clippers should've wrapped this series up by now and qualified for the Western Conference Finals. Yet, two defensive collapses later, they find themselves gearing up for an elimination game against the Denver Nuggets.
The LA Clippers haven't shot the ball well in the second half of the last two games but a better effort while protecting the basket would prevent Denver Nuggets from replicating the 41-21 run from Sunday. That just makes it difficult for Doc Rivers' men to regain any momentum. So what adjustments do they need to make?
Control aggression against Denver Nuggets
Denver has a relatively younger side consisting of crafty players who can get the job done in traffic. Jamal Murray has been weaving through defenses the whole postseason while Nikola Jokic makes good use of his size.
At the same time, overcommitting will lead to unnecessary foul trouble and eventually free throws. Patrick Beverley only played 18 minutes in Game 6 but managed to foul out. Marcus Morris Sr. ended up with four personals early in the third quarter. Such situations will only hand Denver Nuggets the advantage against LA Clippers.
Do LA Clippers really need to force the double team on Nikola Jokic?
Nikola Jokic has been Denver Nuggets' main weapon in the past two games, so it's understandable why Doc Rivers would instruct his players to trap him if need be. But at the same time, The Joker is easily the best passing big man in the league right now. The Nuggets as a unit aren't that bad either. They're averaging nearly 23 assists per game in the NBA Playoffs so they can move the ball well.
Down the stretch, we've seen Jokic getting doubled up only for him to dish the ball to the open man. This has led to great looks for the likes of Michael Porter Jr., Monte Morris, and Jerami Grant. All these players can make LA Clippers pay from downtown.
Montrezl Harrell has had a rough time defensively so with him on the court, help defense will be mandatory. But Ivica Zubac has more or less held his own against the Serbian. So ideally no one from LA Clippers should come over for support unless Jokic is really dominating the match-up.
Manage Montrezl Harrell's minutes well
Harrell really has suffered in this series. Murray has preferred to use the screen and roll to switch on to the Sixth Man of the Year down the stretch to benefit from the mismatch.
Bluntly put, Harrell has been a liability on defense for LA Clippers and at the very least, needs to close out Denver Nuggets' players better. The worst part is that he's nowhere close to the offensive output that won him the aforementioned award. As a result, he's only averaging about 15 minutes a game which could reduce even further.
Published 14 Sep 2020, 20:00 IST