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Tracking Hustle Plays in the Clippers’ 98-88 Victory Over the Grizzlies
November 29th, 2009 by Jon Nichols

Something I’ve wanted to do for a while, and something I imagine every team does, is watch a game from start to finish and track all of the hustle plays made by both teams.  In a league in which every player is not always giving 110%, sometimes a little bit of hustle and effort can go a long way.

With that in mind, the game I chose to track was Sunday’s afternoon contest between the Los Angeles Clippers and the Memphis Grizzlies.  The Grizzlies have been playing well lately, including an impressive victory over Portland.  Altogether, they came into the game having won five of their last seven contests.  The Clippers were also relatively hot, having won three of their last four.  As one would expect from a Grizzlies-Clippers game, the matchup was pretty lackluster through three quarters in terms of excitement and competitiveness.  Then the fourth quarter arrived and the Clippers exploded, including a 22-0 run that won them the game.  Los Angeles outscored Memphis 33-7 in the fourth quarter.  After it was all said and done, the game ended up being a very memorable one for the Clippers and one the Grizzlies would soon like to forget.

Hustle, of course, played a large role.  Below is a link to a spreadsheet which has the results of the statistics I tracked for the game.  Those statistics included loose ball attempts, charges drawn, good sprints down the court (on either offense or defense), deflections, and missed blockouts.

http://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=0AvNKNGJ_AHijdFJPa3hJcFItd0hRR2hRLTZYOEJKcEE&hl=en

  • Until the Clippers caught fire in the fourth and their energy increased, this was not a hustle-filled game.  Memphis did build a large lead partly because of some nice hustle by their big men on both ends of the floor. But overall, hustle was not the reason they were leading.
  • Neither team drew a charge.
  • Even when the Clippers were losing, they had active hands.  They finished with 28 deflections.
  • Marc Gasol showed not only skill but also effort for most of the game.  He went for loose balls and ran the floor hard in the first half.
  • Baron Davis was a menace with his on-the-ball defense.  He played up close on Jamaal Tinsley and Mike Conley and had six deflections.
  • Al Thornton was the Hustle MVP.  He was active on both ends and sprinted the floor all night.  His effort was key to the Clippers’ victory.
  • Did the Clippers dominate the fourth because they hustled more or was it the other way around?  Either way, the difference between their first three quarters and the fourth was like night and day.  Seemingly every Memphis possession in the final period ended with a deflection by a Clipper, a Clipper grabbing the loose ball, and a layup on the other end.
  • Eric Gordon showed impressive speed in running the floor and led a couple of late fast breaks very well.
  • Rudy Gay finished with 10 rebounds, but he was often outworked by Thornton.

A couple of non-hustle related notes:

  • As I mentioned earlier, Gasol was brilliant at times.  He showed a variety of post moves and was very efficient on offense, converting 13 of his 18 attempts.
  • Although he struggled late, Jamaal Tinsley deserves a lot of credit for the way he’s stepped in and performed for Memphis.  On Sunday he ran the offense brilliantly.  He also made a number of smart plays defensively and finished with three steals.
  • Zach Randolph hustled early, but he struggled immensely on offense.  He missed seven of his eight attempts and wasn’t exactly a rock on defense.
  • Going against O.J. Mayo and Rudy Gay, Thornton and Gordon were the stars for the Clippers.  This may not be a surprise.
  • Marcus Camby made some big defensive plays late in the game.  He also finished with 14 boards, although he often is lazy in terms of getting good position and instead just relies on his length and athleticism to collect rebounds.
  • Thornton’s hustle can best be illustrated by his rebounds.  Although he only finished with six, five of those were offensive.

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