The Big Picture:
The Clippers are falling behind. The injury bug has struck the roster quickly and mercilessly. 4-0 start? Now a 5-game skid. And the absences have come from the shallowest part of the pool: the backcourt. Doc Rivers is down to two reliable guards. That puts a lot of playmaking stress on Lou Williams’ slight frame. It also places pressure on Sindarius Thornwell and Jawun Evans. No longer can the rookies marinate in relative obscurity. They’re being tossed onto the fire.
The 76ers are on schedule. Never mind the 21-point loss to the Warriors — that happens to everyone! 6-6 with a not-terrible net rating brings them solidly into the East’s middle class. Considering how recently and for how long they inhabited the conference’s cellar, their new found wealth feels akin to winning the lottery. (Which they somehow did only once.)
Joel Embiid is healthy (for now) and rampaging at both ends. Ben Simmons has reminded us that, oh yeah, we were really excited about him not that long ago. The Sixers have depth. They have JJ. They have a real shot at the playoffs.
- The Schedule: So much for the home court advantage. The Clippers hit the road for five straight, the first four in the Eastern Time Zone. At least they have time to pack. Game 1 of the road trip isn’t until Friday in Cleveland.
- Get Out (and Run): Where’s the pace? The focus on half-court deliberation was supposedly shipped off to Houston with #3. OK, technically, the Clippers are playing faster than they did last year, using one more possession per 48 minutes through 12 games this season. But the league as a whole is playing MUCH faster, which means the Clippers have slipped from 17th to 20th.
- Stopping the Streak With Stops: Losing Milos Teodosic and eventually Danilo Gallinari felt like real hits to the Clippers’ ability to score. A lot of playmaking walked into the training room. But it’s the defense that has succumbed, and Beverley’s absence only opened the wounds further. On October 30th, the Clippers took on the Warriors boasting the league’s top defense. From that day on they’ve been dead last, their defensive efficiency plummeting more than 20 points per 100 possessions. Over that same period, the offense has actually improved. There’s no mystery here.
- For Philadelphia’s point of view, head over to Liberty Ballers.