|The Clippers are opportunistic risers while the rest of the 5-10 ranked teams struggle. Los Angeles has been good all season, but blowing out the Brooklyn Nets by 39 points followed by a 20-point victory over the Suns is enough to push ahead of the pack.
|Can't deny we expect more on the boards, but it's tough to buy into the notion that we've seen real slippage from Blake Griffin when he's the only player in the league averaging at least 23 PPG+, 7+ RPG and 5+ APG. His team, meanwhile, now has 20-point wins this month over Dallas and Phoenix.
|LA got back to feeling better vs. three bad teams (the Kings, Celtics, and Nets) then got a quality win Sunday on the road vs. the Suns. They have the third best net points per possession mark in the entire league. I'm still skeptical, but you have to reward the resume.
|The Clippers still have interest in free agent guard Nate Robinson, but are exploring other deals first, a source said.
|DeAndre Jordan's shooting 39 percent from the foul line. And, he leads the league in rebounding and is second in blocked shots. What would you pay a guy with those numbers in free agency?
|The Clippers are showing us just how good a team can be with no bench. Their starting lineup has played 250 more minutes than any other lineup in the league and continues to destroy everything in its path (it's been outscored in just three of its last 28 games). But their bench is just awful, especially with Jamal Crawford shooting 35 percent in January.
|With the league's best offense, the Clippers don’t need to be elite defensively to be dominant. They’re 22-2 when holding opponents to 100 points or less.
|Pro Basketball Talk
|It’s odd to think that Chris Paul is on the bubble for making the All-Star Game as a reserve, but that’s just how deep the West is. Fans going by points alone or falling for the hot new flavor of the month have others in front of CP3, but look at his assists and assist-to-turnover ratio. To me the best floor general in the game today has to make the cut. Clippers are +11.9 as a team in last 10 games, third best in the NBA, thanks to an offense scoring 114.5 per 100 over that span.
|Blake Griffin finally hitting the three-pointers he's always taken is a scary development.
|The Clippers have been flying under the radar recently, at least in terms of their actual basketball performance. But that role seems to be suiting them just fine, as they've quietly been winning games, oftentimes by dominant margins. They've reclaimed their spot as the league's top offense, while posting differentials that exceed even last year's, putting them only below the Warriors and Hawks. This is starting to reflect in the league standings, where they're in a three-way race for the fourth seed and less than two games out of second (also of note, they're 8-4 against the top eight in the West).
The Clippers went 4-0 this last week, including two dominant performances versus Brooklyn and in Phoenix. They now have the attention of our think tank, who rewarded them by moving them up across the board, in several cases the top 5. Early-season fears seem to be somewhat assuaged, and though they'll view the team with a wary eye going forward, it doesn't seem like the Clippers have been written off anymore.
|Margin of Victory
|Simple Rating System
|Strength of Schedule
ESPN's RPI stat has them tied for 4th with Houston, while they come in 3rd with an EWP of .762 (good for a 34-10 record). Basketball Reference also has them with a Pythagorean record of 32-12, only behind the consensus two best teams in the league.
The blowout win against the Nets triggered a lot of this rise, but an undefeated week speaks for itself. By all estimates now, they might qualify statistically as the 2nd best team in the West (and in the case of MOV and SRS, 2nd leaguewide ahead of Atlanta). Of course, the one team ahead of them also happens to reside in their division, and just happens to be their biggest rival.
Over this time frame, the Clippers have also ascended to the consensus #1 team in offensive efficiency by all major outlets. It's all coming together in Los Angeles, and hopefully it continues this week — as the Clippers prepare for their toughest stretch of the year. Wins against hapless Denver and feisty Utah should give the Clips some more buffer in the rankings as we head into the annual Grammys road trip.
A Friday/Saturday back-to-back in New Orleans and San Antonio will test the team (and they shouldn't be expected to prevail in the latter), but it's after another tilt with Brooklyn that the real challenge emerges. The Clippers will go through a 4-in-5 on the road, followed by their 5th in seven days at home against Houston.
Take a look at their opponents though — a veritable murderer's row licking their chops to dispatch Los Angeles on national TV. Thursday night in Cleveland (TNT), a SEGABABA in Toronto (ESPN), followed by a Sunday showdown in Oklahoma City (ABC), and another back-to-back Monday in Dallas. Oof.
The travel might not be as grueling as that 4-in-5-in-four-time-zones stretch in late December (a 6-in-9 when you count follow-up games versus Golden State and Toronto), but here the competition is elite throughout. Fortunately the Clippers have the All-Star break afterwards to rest up (a little), but it doesn't get any easier from there.