Being in a 1-1 series tie with the San Antonio Spurs isn’t the worst position for the Los Angeles Clippers to find themselves in. The team has shown plenty of positive signs throughout the first two games of this series—Blake Griffin is dunking on fools! Chris Paul is in Playoff Mode! DeAndre Jordan actually made some free throws!—but there’s still a large, nasty stench hanging over this team, and it’s coming from their wack-ass bench.
The Clippers’ bench has sucked all year, of course, but [speaks in pundit voice] every little deficiency that a team carries throughout the regular season is magnified during the playoffs. So far in this series, the Clippers have gotten mostly dick out of the bench unit.
The problem is twofold. It’s not that the Clippers bench is short, or that the players on said bench aren’t very good; it’s both of those things. Every playoff team shortens its rotation and plays its best players big minutes, but the Clippers are so far trending toward the extreme. Of the 101 minutes of action that have been played in this series, Blake Griffin (89 minutes), J.J. Redick (83 minutes), DeAndre Jordan (83 minutes), and Chris Paul (81 minutes) have hardly left the floor. That would maybe be a tenable situation if the players who were giving them the occasional blow were effective, but asking this bench unit to make a positive impact on the game is like asking a dog to make pancakes. I mean, look at this shit:
Austin Rivers has played 24 minutes, shot 3-of-7 from the floor, and notched one assist. Big Baby Davis has played 22 minutes, scored three points, and grabbed five rebounds. Hedo Trukoglu has played seven minutes and smoked three cigarettes behind the basket stanchion. Jamal Crawford has been the only relative bright spot, scoring 28 points on 11-of-23 shooting in 44 minutes.
And that’s it! The Clippers have a perfectly fine sixth man in Jamal Crawford, and then they are asking a crew of 11th or 12th men to occupy the seven, eight, and nine spots. Big Baby Davis—Big Goddamn Baby!—is the only usable big man this team currently has on the bench. Meanwhile, Spencer Hawes, whom Doc Rivers signed to a four-year, $23 million contract, is just rotting away at the end of the bench, crafting Rand Paul fan fiction.
The bad news for the Clippers is that this problem is only going to get worse as the series wears on. Even with the injuries that the Spurs are dealing with, they still have a huge advantage over the Clips when it comes to depth, and this series has the look of one that will feature a lot of grueling games like the one that was played last night. The Clippers’ starting five can hang with anybody in the league, the question is whether they will still be standing by the time this series rolls into Game 7.