Chris Paul: Chris Paul's play with Blake Griffin out should launch him into the MVP ballot race (Curry has sewn up the award itself), and quite possibly into the runner-up position. His production after the break has been incredible: 23.7/5.3/10.9 with just 2 turnovers a game. That gives him a rather ridiculous 5.5 Ast/TO ratio (anything above 3:1 is generally considered good), and the low turnovers are stunning considering just how much he possesses the ball. His shooting has also improved since the start of the season, and his slash line of 52.7/37.7 (on six threes a game)/100 (37/37 on FTs) after the break is as good as any throughout his career. He is taking more threes while hitting them at an identical rate and continues to be one of the best midrange shooters the NBA has ever seen. None of this even accounts for his defense, which is not quite as good as it used to be but is still well above average. Approaching age 31 and with a ton of miles on his odometer, one would think CP3 should be slowing down, but there is no end to his greatness in sight.
Standings Watch: The Clippers have closed the gap on the Thunder to 1.5 games for the three seed, but at this point I think staying at four isn't the worst thing in the world. While Memphis has played well recently and are always a tough opponent, their lack of high end talent (outside of Mike Conley) means the Clippers heavily outweigh them. Moving into the three spot might mean an encounter with the surging Portland Trailblazers, and I don't think anyone wants a piece of the Damian Lillard/CJ McCollum duo in the playoffs. I believe even the Dallas Mavericks are a bit scarier than the Grizzlies at this point simply because Rick Carlisle is one of the best coaches in the NBA and makes incredible playoff adjustments that pushes his teams farther than they have any right to go. Of course the Warriors are the destiny for any four or five seed, but anyone who wants to win the West will probably have to face them sooner or later (I can't see the Thunder knocking them off), and it might be nicer to just get an easier first round opponent.
Austin Rivers returns: While the Clippers played fine without him, Austin's return is great for two reasons. First is that he remains the Clippers' go-to defender on guards (a locked in Chris Paul is better, but the Clips don't want to tire him out on that end), and his presence is vital if the Clippers want to be a top defensive team. Second is just that he provides real depth. Chris Paul and JJ Redick were playing a lot of minutes with Austin out and they need to rest up for the playoffs. The last thing this team needs is one of those guys to get injured, and Austin's ability to play rotation level basketball for 20 minutes a night is essential to keeping them fresh.
Jeff Green: This is kind of a misnomer right off the bat; Jeff Green has not been bad per se. He has been incredibly inconsistent, and the one thing the Clippers need from him is consistency. Previous teams have looked to him as a savior or a guy who needs to carry the team at times. The Clippers don't need that. All they require is solid defense, scoring in the low to mid-teens, and a few little things. So far they have been treated to the patented Jeff Green roller-coaster ride. His scoring totals since the All Star break reads like this: 5, 18, 6, 22, 7, 0, 14, 0. A seven point game here or there is acceptable, but a starting small forward on a contending team simply can't have zero point games, much less two in a span of three games. At this stage of his career Jeff is unlikely to develop any new skills or abilities, but bringing a certain level of steadiness every night would be much appreciated
Blake Griffin is Still Out: This is an obvious one. Blake being out weakens the team, and anyone who says otherwise is crazy. Not only that, but he is still one of the most entertaining players to watch in the NBA, and Clippers' fans miss his athleticism, passing, and ability to take over games and relieve Chris Paul. Another annoying side of Blake being out is all the people who come out of the woodwork and insist that Blake doesn't help the Clippers win games, or that he should be benched when he returns. In the first game or two back Doc might, might bring him off the bench to limit his minutes, but that will be it. Blake Griffin is a star player in this league, and was considered top five as recently as the 2015 playoffs. What Doc should do his stagger his minutes more with Chris Paul so that Blake can be the dominant play maker on the second unit, but it remains to be seen what he will do with the rotations. While Blake should make it back in a couple weeks, it will probably take him a while to get fully up to speed, and by that time the playoffs will be starting. Even in the first round the Clippers will probably need a healthy Blake, and, well, they are toast in the second round against either the Spurs or Warriors if he isn't close to 100%.