- Bradford Doolittle, ESPN Staff Writer
What is wrong with the Los Angeles Clippers' defense? With a golden opportunity to steal a Game 5 road win at Oklahoma City on Tuesday, L.A. gave up 17 points over the last 3:53 while blowing a 13-point lead. The Clippers led by seven with 49.2 seconds left, but gave up eight points down the stretch. Mistakes on both ends contributed, but nevertheless the Clippers could have won with just one more stop.
The Clippers have given up 110.7 points per 100 possessions during the second round, 8.6 points worse than their regular-season mark, per NBA.com/Stats. But L.A. isn't the only team being torched in the second round: Brooklyn (116.7), Portland (113.0) and Oklahoma City (109.3) have all put up second-round defensive efficiencies worse than the regular-season figure for Utah (109.1), the worst defensive team in the league.
There are a lot of shopworn clichés about playoff basketball, some of which are provable, and others that are not. Do players try harder at playoff time? Probably, but it's hard to demonstrate that statistically. Are the games slower and more half-court focused than the regular season? Yes, but the story is more nuanced than that.
Does defense and rebounding win championships? You hear that one a lot, but it's always struck me as an oversimplification. If anything, balance wins championships, which is why 33 of the 37 champions since the NBA-ABA merger have finished in the top 12 on both ends of the floor during the regular season. That description applied to seven of this season's 16 playoff teams, four of whom are still playing.
2dSteve Ilardi and Jeremias Engelmann