Clippers’ bench is standing out on defense

first_imgOKLAHOMA CITY >> Doc Rivers had plans for the Clippers’ bench. This, well, this wasn’t one of them.Eight games into season — essentially 1/10th of the regular season — Jamal Crawford, Raymond Felton, Marreese Speights, Austin Rivers and Wesley Johnson are defending better than every other bench in the NBA.Even crazier, the Clippers’ staring unit is the only five-man lineup with at least 60 minutes together on the court holding opponents to fewer points per 100 possessions.“I knew we’d be one of the top offenses in the league. We have so many scorers. … The combination of us fits perfectly,” Austin Rivers said. “On defense, I didn’t know how we were going to be. I thought we would maybe struggle. The fact that we’re second in the league right now is (expletive) shocking.” But, so far, the group’s ability to cover has been one of the most pleasant surprises of the season despite some individual defensive weaknesses.“Mo’s been good, though. You don’t have to have great individual defenders to have to be a good team defense,” Doc Rivers said. “I think that’s what the second group has done. The key guys, Wes has improved more with his weakside and awareness, but the key guys are Raymond and Austin. They do things to make us a good defensive team.”Just another cityBlake Griffin is from Oklahoma City. He played his college basketball for the state’s beloved Sooners. And, that’s why the people inside Chesapeake Energy Arena cheered when Griffin was introduced pregame.But even as he enters what could be the final season of his current contract, Griffin didn’t expect to hear much from his friends in family in town about maybe joining the Thunder down the road.“When I talk to my friends and family from back home, I think they’re, I would say, true friends and family. They know that my main focus is this season and this team,” Griffin said Wednesday. “They know I enjoy playing (for the Clippers) and I love this team, coaching staff, everybody. They know that’s my main focus. They pretty much know not to bring that up.”Doc Rivers, who said he never wanted to play professionally in his hometown of Chicago, said he doesn’t see much of a difference in Griffin’s game in Oklahoma City.“I think he just wants to win,” Rivers said. “Usually when you come home, you want to win because you see your guys and friends that summer, you don’t want them to have anything on you.” Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorcenter_img The Clippers’ bench has been good on offense — its’s 12th in the league in efficiency, ahead of 11 different starting lineups.“Our offense has carried over to defense,” Austin Rivers said.Because the Clippers trust each other when they have the ball, they’ve taken to each other on the defensive end, playing a frantic style reliant on perfect rotations. And, it’s worked.“It’s not always like this,” Jamal Crawford, a veteran of plenty different benches, said. “…We cover for each other. We fly around.”The group wasn’t as sharp Friday, with Oklahoma City’s bench giving it some matchup problems because of OKC’s size in the first half and with some unexpected 3-point shooting in the second half.last_img

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