The Los Angeles Clippers lost a crucial game on Sunday afternoon against the Oklahoma City Thunder, 108-104. It wasn’t a great performance from the Clippers by any means, who had to climb their way back from a huge deficit in the second half. The Clippers actually took a one-point lead in the final minute of the game, but it just wasn’t enough.
Oklahoma City has now beaten the Clippers in all three meetings this season. This Clippers team has surprised lots of people this season, after winning 17 games in a row and getting impressive wins over the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs earlier this season.
However, the Clippers seem to have one big problem as the season is coming down to its final stretch.
The Clippers played 12 different players during Sunday’s loss to the Thunder. The depth of this team was their biggest strength early on, but by now they should have a consistent rotation from game to game. Most NBA teams come playoff time have a set rotation of eight or nine guys, definitely not 12.
This was a problem the Clippers knew they would have to face sooner or later while trying to keep everyone on the roster happy, which is nearly impossible to do these days.
The Clippers should have had this problem solved a lot earlier in the season, but injuries have dragged this issue on. It’s hard to find the right rotations when the entire team hasn’t been healthy at the same time all season until just last month.
Head coach Vinny Del Negro has sent out many different lineups this season throughout games and still doesn’t have a set rotation.
The starting five of Chris Paul, Chauncey Billups, Caron Butler, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan is the only lineup you can count on staying the same. After that, all bets are off on which five players will be on the floor at certain times throughout the game.
Every other week, it’s either Ronny Turiaf or Ryan Hollins getting minutes behind Jordan at center. Grant Hill played eight minutes on Sunday, but didn’t play at all in the previous two games.
The most important lineup is the one that is on the floor at the end of games, and even that lineup changes often. Last Thursday, against the Indiana Pacers, the lineup on the floor for the Clippers in the final minutes of the game was Paul, Billups, Matt Barnes, Lamar Odom, and Griffin. The Clippers ended up winning that game 99-91, thanks to an amazing final three minutes by Paul.
On Sunday, Paul, Jamal Crawford, Barnes, Odom, and Griffin were on the floor during the final minutes of the game. The lineup at the end of games shouldn’t be changing, especially this late into the season.
Coach Del Negro needs to figure out which lineups work and which ones don’t, quickly. He has to find the right group of guys going forward, even if that makes some of the other players unhappy. The Clippers will need a legitimate eight or nine-man rotation if they plan on making a deep run in the 2013 playoffs.
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