Whicker: Against Clippers’ defense, the drive to Staples Center might be the easy part

first_imgPLAYA VISTA — Paul George is not ready to play yet. He was ready, on Sunday, for the first questions.“Our defense is going to be scary,” George said. “First, we got Lou-Will …”He stopped right there to see if the Media Day crowd was wise to the joke. It was.“No, we’ve really got a chance to do something special,” George said. “It’s going to be energetic. Watching Pat (Beverley) picking up somebody 94 feet, it’ll get me going. People are going to come to watch us on the defensive end. Kristaps Porzingis ruled out as Clippers, Mavericks set for Game 5; Follow for game updates “Who’s going to score against us? You’ll have to ask the other team that.”The Clippers began the long march on Sunday, with a media crowd that required a spillover parking lot, with the same ambitions they had in the Lob City days, with far more players to chase them.Lou Williams, of course, is the hole in the defensive blanket, but as long as he spends his minutes outscoring his man, and perhaps his man’s whole team, it’s fine.The Clippers lost Danilo Gallinari and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, but one was an offensive specialist and the other a rookie. They signed George and Kawhi Leonard. Either one would have made them the best defensive team in the NBA. Together they might make defensive history, even in these days when a sneeze is a foul, and all 47 half-court feet are a launch zone.As they surged into the playoffs and won twice at Golden State during a best-of-seven first-round series, the Clippers pledged their time to defense. Their devotion to defensive rebounds and loose balls helped, but they also were sixth in the league in preventing 3-point attempts, and seventh in defensive 3-point percentage. Ivica Zubac, rookie Mfiondu “Fi” Kabengele and Montrezl Harrell will guard the rim, but the real action will come on a drastically shrunken court.Leonard is 6-foot-7, George is 6-9, JaMychal Green 6-9, Moe Harkless 6-9, and Patrick Patterson 6-9. Landry Shamet 6-5 and Rodney McGruder 6-4 bring size and wingspan to the perimeter.Then there is 6-1 Beverley, whose height isn’t as relevant as his boiling point (far lower than 212).So Doc Rivers will have an interchangeable wolf pack for all 48 minutes, given health.Consider the four apocalyptic games with the Lakers, who have championship inventory, too.But Leonard or George can guard LeBron James, Leonard or George can guard Kyle Kuzma, a host of double-team strategies can be aimed at Anthony Davis, and Beverley will be the crouching dragon that attacks Danny Green outside.If few of those plans work, Rivers can change them up. Defense has no off nights unless the schedule takes away your legs. Leonard, on Sunday, said he feels “way better” than he did last year, so don’t count on a lot of DNP-Rest games.“I’m gonna be honest, we’ve got a really good team but it starts tomorrow (with Monday’s practice),” Beverley said. “I’m going to take the pressure off everybody. We’re not talking about championships. It’s one day at a time.“I was able to be healthy and work on things this summer. But off the court, and you’re going to hear me say this a lot this year, it’s my behavior. Like Doc says, behavior is greatness. You guys want me to be a certain way, but when you’re second in the league in technical fouls, I need to harness all that. The more I can control it, the better off we’ll be.”Related Articles For Lakers’ LeBron James, Jacob Blake’s shooting is bigger issue than a big Game 4 victory At the Lakers’ podium on Friday, Green said last year’s Toronto Raptors helped prove that chemistry is not always a slow-cooking process. The players know each other already. If they want to play together, they will. There are times, like in Oklahoma City with George and Russell Westbrook, when it doesn’t work. But the Clippers liked each other anyway, and they have been playing together, whether it’s pickup games or fishing trips, all summer.“Defense is something we’ve all been playing since we were kids,” Beverley said. “That’s not going to be a problem.”Seeing the whole cast together in uniform was different from reading the Twitter leaks of July.Leonard really is here, in all his muscularity. George really is here, in all his maturity.“My phone started blowing up when it happened, almost like it was when I was traded,” said Shamet, who came here in February. “At first I thought I was getting traded again.”One never knows, but to beat the Clippers four times in a series, someone will have to make lots of tough fourth-quarter shots against 10 arms that stretch like 20. Maybe only one man can do that, and Lou Williams is on the Clippers’ side, both hot hands clapping.center_img Clippers vs. Mavericks Game 5 playoff updates from NBA beat reporters What the Clippers are saying the day after Luka Doncic’s game-winner tied series, 2-2 Clippers hope they can play to their capabilities, quell Mavericks’ momentum Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorlast_img