The long ball might be starting to fall for the Clippers: They've shot above league average for the past three games, including 37% (7-19) against Detroit. That's a welcoming development for a team who's still at only 31% for the year, 26th in the league. More importantly, both Paul Pierce and Jamal Crawford have been shooting near or over 40% during that stretch (as have Austin Rivers and Wesley Johnson). There's no guarantee that'll hold, of course, but it's a good trend to see.
Those shots missing have hampered spacing early in the season and kept the Clippers offense from being the best in the league, as it has for two seasons running. The Clippers have managed to remain third in offensive efficiency (trailing only Golden State and Oklahoma City) thanks to leading the league in FG% in the restricted area and shooting an above-average 42.4% from midrange (where they're 6th in both attempts and efficiency). Interestingly enough, they've been one of the best teams in the league shooting from the right corner, but one of the worst from the left corner.
The Clippers still need Jamal Crawford more than you'd like: Crawford can still offer a lot to the Clippers, even at his advanced age. He's been having a terrible season so far, but playing in a starting role Sunday he was everything you could ask for. His play was reminiscent of how he stepped up in both 2014 and 2015 when Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, respectively, were out due to injuries. While you can't reasonably expect that level of production more than a few times a year, his performance wasn't totally outlandish; it seemed replicable in a smaller role going forward.
A silver lining of the Paul/Redick injuries is that Crawford might have been able to get back into an offensive rhythm and continue to play well going forward (which also has the benefit of improving his trade value). Right now, the way other role players are doing, the Clippers definitely need his presence in the second unit. Paul Pierce hasn't shown himself capable of leading the offense in that group, and Austin Rivers is still limited on that end despite his elevated level of play this season. Crawford's scoring — and more importantly, playmaking — are vital for this team until guys like Josh Smith, Pierce, and Lance Stephenson can show themselves capable of being focal points on offense.
With Crawford playing well, Doc doesn't have to worry as much about staggering his rotations (which we did see him continue to do against Detroit, bringing in Blake to play with the second unit in the first half and leaving Jamal in to start the fourth). Otherwise, it's seemingly impossible to play the reserves together without one of the Big 3 on the floor with them. Crawford's resurgence can add a lot, but it also obscures a lot of the same flaws that have existed in years past and will pop up once again in the playoffs and against good teams.
There needs to be less Paul Pierce: Although he needed to play more minutes with other players out, 30 minutes is a hefty load for a guy who's supposedly being saved for the playoffs. He wasn't showing out either, and those calling for Wes Johnson to see an increased role were left unsatisfied by yesterday's game (although Wes was the first man off the bench in the first half). Meanwhile, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute got second half minutes again and again looked very impressive on the floor, impacting the game defensively and making a number of plays that weren't reflected in the box score. He's got to be getting more minutes, either with Pierce on the second unit or relieving him.
Meanwhile, Lance Stephenson was cut out of the rotation almost entirely, which Doc Rivers suggested was more of an anomaly than a trend going forward. It was understandable in this game, where it was hard to find Lance a role to play with Rivers and Crawford soaking up most of the minutes at guard. Unfortuately, Lance still hasn't been super impressive as a Clipper, and Bad Lance has made a lot more appearances in the last few games. More than any of the other new additions, he seems to be the guy who's had the hardest time fitting in on the floor.
Golden State awaits: Luckily, the Clippers get a big rest advantage before their next meeting with the Warriors, with four full days of rest in between games (including two practices, which might help the roster congeal). The hope is that the extra rest will also be enough for Chris Paul and J.J. Redick to suit up for the next matchup.
Defense was what kept them in the last game with Golden State, but it was also ultimately their undoing. That side of the ball was a huge factor in Saturday's win, as Los Angeles really ramped up the pressure on the Pistons in the second half. Interestingly, the Clippers were fairly liberal switching on screens in that game (even when it created matchups like Blake Griffin on Reggie Jackson, or Austin Rivers on Ersan Ilyasova), something to pay attention to going forward. The Warriors are still undefeated, but they're not immortal. If Toronto doesn't get them on Tuesday, the Clippers might have the best shot of anyone at knocking them down.