Chasing J.J. Redick

J.J. Redick has always been a sharpshooter, but for a few minutes in the Game 2 win over Portland, he was the focal point of the Clippers’ offense.  That ends up being a nice bonus on a squad featuring stars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin.  As I walked into Staples Center, I noticed that Redick and Austin Rivers were the only Clippers working on shooting an hour before tipoff.  A little later in the night, that observation started to feel like an omen.

Just over a minute into the contest, Redick hit a three-pointer despite being fouled by C.J. McCollum.  Soon after, he made an extremely difficult two-point shot off a curl after receiving a pass from Paul.  It seemed impossible that he would even keep his balance, let alone score from 21 feet away.  A couple of possessions later, Griffin found him for his deepest attempt yet, another three that made the score 11-4.  One last basket from behind the arc gave him 11 for the quarter as the Clippers led 18-11.  Los Angeles would go on to win by 21, but Redick set the tone early and finished with 17 points.  It’s also worth noting that the Clippers didn’t really pull away until the fourth as they led just 67-61 after three periods of play.

It’s a bit surprising that Griffin hasn’t run wild in this series against a suspect frontcourt, but the Clippers have kept a balanced attack so far.  Rivers and Jamal Crawford have been able to make shots off the bench, while Redick shot an effective 8-12 during the first game of the series.  Jeff Green was able to step up in  the second game as he chipped in 10 points of his own.

On Saturday, neither Redick nor Green shot well, 3-15. But, Chris Paul has led the team in scoring with 26.3 per game much to the chagrin of Portland point guard Damian Lillard.  Portland went a woeful 5-26 on threes during Game 2 in an attempt at responding to Redick’s marksmanship, but in game three, when Redick struggled, they still were unable to capitalize, having a 6-25 night.

Nobody wants to guard Redick, and not just because of his accuracy.  That alone is considerable: he made a stratospheric 47.5% on three-pointers during the regular season for a total of 200 makes.  That was a career high for efficiency, but not way out of character: after all, Redick has converted over 41% from long range in his career.  The Duke product is in constant motion even without the ball, so defenders have to expend a lot of energy just following him.  It also stretches defensive units to the point that the Clippers can find an easy shot inside even when Redick doesn’t receive a pass. And when Redick does receive a pass, usually he is wide open.

Redick vs. the Blazers Touches Points FG% Uncontested Shots %
Game 1 30 17 66.7% 60.0%
Game 2 36 17 46.7% 54.5%
Game 3 27 5 20.0% 100%

Late in the game, I could hear scattered chants of “Bring on the Warriors!” in the crowd as L.A. was cruising to a 2-0 series edge.  If the Clippers are to advance and face Golden State, they will need Redick to be on his game.  The Warriors certainly have a plethora of long-range shooters and stretching the defense is Redick’s main job on this team.  It’s hard to imagine winning a series against Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Harrison Barnes without making big shots when they matter.

Redick had gotten off to a good start in the playoffs at home, as did teammates like Cole Aldrich, who scored a postseason career-high 8 points in just 12 minutes during Game 2. Aldrich came back to earth in game 3 with 3 points. And so did Redick with 5 points and 20% shooting.

Redick may be in his tenth NBA season, but his skills are sharper than ever.  He has been the same Redick of the regular season despite playing through intense pain caused by a sore heel.  Redick takes a high-energy approach to defense.  During the regular season, opponents shot well below average against him and 7.3% worse than average on three-point attempts.  It’s a bonus on a Clippers team that knows it can feed him the ball in any situation when a key basket is needed.  Redick is also a diversion for defenses that would rather collapse on Griffin and Paul but are generally forced to follow him where he roams.

Redick rarely gets the limelight or the attention of more notable Clippers stars but without a legitimate small forward, Redick makes the offense work. If the Clippers advance to the second round, credit Redick with being the unsung hero.

 

photo via llananba