A 4-0 week against tough competition finally has everyone questioning whether or not this Clippers squad is for real; based on this week’s power rankings, it seems that the general consensus is a resounding yes. Perhaps the most encouraging element of the Clippers’ first ten games is not the competent bench or stifling defense, but the fact that they are playing with a newfound confidence born of the belief that they should beat any team that emerges from the opposing tunnel. To prove to the rest of the league that this hot start is no aberration, they’re going to need to harness that resolve for the duration of the season.
ESPN (Marc Stein) - 2 Last Week: 2
Remember when the Clippers lost four of their first five road games last season? We frankly didn't because they've been so good so far, assembling the first 9-1 start in franchise history and bolting to a nightly average margin of plus-15.1 thanks to back-to-back victories at home last week (over Detroit and Portland) by a combined 63 points and what ranks as -- by far -- the NBA's most withering defense (tops in the league in defensive efficiency at 92.7 points allowed per 100 possessions).
NBA.com (John Schuhmann) - 1 LW: 2
After scoring just 98 points per 100 possessions in their first five games, the Clippers have scored 117 over their last five, with their starting backcourt shooting 25-for-45 (56 percent) from 3-point range and Chris Paul dishing out more than seven assists for every turnover. Still defending well, they led two games last week (over Detroit and Portland) by more than 40 points. Friday's close win in Oklahoma City was their last road game against a team currently over .500 before they visit Cleveland on Dec. 1.
NBC Sports (Kurt Helin) - 1 LW: 2
On a six-game win streak as they continue to be carried by the best defense in the NBA and an offense that has found its groove the past week. What are they doing right on D? Smothering the pick-and-roll ball handler, who are shooting just 31.4 percent against L.A (via Synergy Sports). Also they are closing out and contesting on spot up shooters very well. Fun game against the Bulls Saturday.
CBS Sports (Matt Moore) - 1 LW: 2
Straight up, this team reminds me of the 2011 Dallas Mavericks. From the aging point guard to the star power forward whose impact is overlooked, to how everyone has dismissed them because of past playoff performances. All the way down. In November of 2011, I said the Mavericks were playing like a legitimately dangerous playoff team. Then Nowitzki got hurt and everyone overlooked them for six months. Don't lose sight of how this team is playing, not just in terms of wins, but the style and fun energy they're playing with.
Sports Illustrated (Jeremy Woo) - 2 LW: 3
Are they better than the Warriors? Probably not. But minute-for-minute, the Clippers have been the best team in the West so far. After the best start in franchise history, let’s give them some credit.
The sample size may still be small, but what we’ve seen out of the Clippers so far should serve as every indication to take this team seriously. Thanks to some insane stat lines from the likes of James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Anthony, Davis, and DeMar Derozan, people seem to be overlooking Chris Paul. All he’s done so far is lead the league in PER (32.0), shoot 44.9% from three, and, as John Schuhmann points out, amass an AST/TO ratio greater than 7.0 in his last five games. Don’t expect his exceedingly efficient style of play to fly under the radar much longer if the Clippers keep winning ballgames.
Matt Moore’s comparison to a 2011 Dallas Mavericks team that went on to shock the Miami Heat in the Finals is one that is being floated quite a bit. While the styles of the two teams do have parallels, the real similarity is in the potential narrative of the keep-the-band-together Clippers playing David to the Warrior’s Goliath. The Warriors, even as they feel each other out, are still very very good, but if you have to pick a challenger in the West, the Clips seems like the logical choice.
This week should be an interesting test for a team that has played the toughest schedule (based on opponent’s winning percentage) so far this season, as the quality of their opponents sees a steep drop-off. They’ll take on the Brooklyn Nets and Memphis Grizzlies at home, take a quick trip north to play the Sacramento Kings, and finally return to Staples Center to face off against the new-look Chicago Bulls in what should be their most intriguing game of the week. There’s no denying that the Clippers have been playing at a very high level up to this point and this slate of games will test their ability to keep on the throttle against less menacing opposition.