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Noel, Sixers Can't Slow Down Clippers, Fall 119-98

Despite a career-high 30 points, along with 14 rebounds, from Nerlens Noel, the Sixers could not slow down Chris Paul and the Clippers league-leading offense.

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia 76ers failed to do something that most teams fail at: slow down the Los Angeles Clippers.

The Clippers came to the Wells Fargo Center with the highest rated offense in the league, and played like it last night. The Clippers used a 32 point third quarter to blow open an 8 point half-time lead.

The Clippers shot 65% in that crushing third quarter, with DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin leading the way with 8 points each. The Sixers shot only 21.1% on the offensive end themselves.

Chris Paul led the Clippers with an efficient 25 points and 7 assists, but he had plenty of help: DeAndre Jordan had 17 points and 20 rebounds (7 offensive), J.J. Redick had 19 points, and the Clippers featured 6 players in double figures in scoring, including all 5 starters.

It was the Clippers 7th straight win over the Sixers, and 6th straight win overall.

"We're so proud of us being 10th [defensively] and we had a hard time doing much with them," Sixers head coach Brett Brown said after the game. "They're one of those teams that's rare because they can post Blake [Griffin], they can throw lobs at DeAndre [Jordan], they can bring [J.J.] Reddick off the pindown, and then they have the killer in the pick and roll in Chris Paul. You have this menu to figure out how to guard.  To zoom in on something particular like you can on most teams, you can't with them."

The Sixers had a defensive rating of 116.4 on the night, with the Clippers having a true shooting percentage of 62.2%. For the Sixers, it was their worst defensive showing in nearly a month.

The Sixers were led by Nerlens Noel, who scored 30 points and collected 14 rebounds. Noel is now averaging 14.4 points, 11 rebounds, 2.5 steals, 2.3 blocks, and 1.5 assists per game in March.

The 30 points was a career-high for Noel. His previous career-high was the 23 points he scored against the Knicks last week.

Besides hustle plays, offensive rebounds, and alley-oops from Ish Smith, Noel also flashed a series of moves that should have Sixers fans optimistic about his future, including a number of converted post-up opportunities and a strong move where he took DeAndre Jordan off the dribble.

Still, the game was a little bit of an odd one for Noel, who had only 1 steal and 0 blocks with 2 minutes left in the game. It was only the 6th time this season that he failed to record a block in a game.

"He didn't have any blocked shots tonight. That's not him," Brown said after the game. "He is clearly our compass defensively. When he is spectacular defensively, which he has been, we have a little bit of a chance. I thought, as a team, and Nerlens was a part of that, we weren't great defensively."

The Clippers obviously play a part in that, as their breadth of options is tough for any team to cover, hence their ranking as the best offensive team in the league. After the game, Noel said that part of his lack of defensive stats was a result of trying to stay more disciplined.

"They have so many weapons. And DeAndre, I couldn't really leave him too much with him being a great offensive rebounder, so I tried to stick with him and keep him off the boards," Noel explained. "This is a game where you have to be a little more disciplined on the defensive end so you don't lose your assignment."

That elite offensive rebounding from Jordan proved to be a problem for Noel. Jordan finished the night with 7 offensive rebounds, despite the Clippers only missing 38 shots on the night.

"I think I should have done a much better job on the defensive end of just not letting him get so many offensive rebounds," Noel said about his defense of Jordan after the game. "And the lob over my head. I need to know my personnel better and understand that Chris Paul finds him on that whenever he's a bit open."

Offensively, Ish Smith had another great game, finishing with 18 points (8-14 from the field, 2-2 from three point range) and 9 assists. Smith is averaging 6.2 assists per game since joining the Sixers, and is averaging 14.6 points and 7.1 assists per game as a starter for the Sixers. He has led the Sixers in assists in 14 of his 18 games with the team.

The Sixers had a 101.9 offensive rating and shot 50% from the field in the 32 minutes that Ish Smith played last night, with only a 74.3 offensive rating and shot only 25% from the field in the 16 minutes that he sat.

Sixers production against Clippers with/without Ish Smith
Team Stat On Court (32 mins) On Bench (16 mins)
Offensive rating 101.9 74.3
Field Goal % 50% 25%
3 pt % 42.1% 25%
True shooting % 57.3% 36.1%

The Sixers had 26.7 points per 48 minutes in transition and 59.3 points per 48 minutes in the paint during the 32 minutes that Smith played, but 0 fast break points and only 12.3 points per 48 minutes in the paint in the 16 minutes that Smith was not on the court.

Sixers production against Clippers with/without Ish Smith
Team Stat On Court (32 mins) On Bench (16 mins)
Points off Turnovers 19.3 3.1
Fast Break Points 26.7 0
Points in Paint
59.3 12.3
* per 48 minutes

"It gives you even more of a jolt to have somebody like that who you know whenever you're open that he will throw you the ball," Noel said about Smith after the game. "I've built such great chemistry with him, and I think that it's only going to get better."

"When you have players and point guards that reward it, there's a reason to run," Brett Brown said about Noel's transition offense. "The whole thing, from how much we talk about career-best fitness, to talking about effort starts and [their] first 3 steps, to people that will reward the run, I think as time has unfolded have produced a more committed runner [in Nerlens]."

The Sixers next game is Sunday in Cleveland. They return home on Monday to play the Los Angeles Lakers.

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