Three game win streak:
Winning games is good, and the Clippers have now won three in a row after a nine game losing streak. The wins all came against lottery teams, but wins are wins. The Clippers are suddenly tied for the 9th seed in the West, and are a mere half game back of the 8th seed (and the theoretical playoffs). It’s true that the season isn’t a quarter of the way through, and it’s still way too early to think playoffs. However, the Clippers are right in the middle of the hunt, and there is reason to think they could outperform the Jazz and possibly the Pelicans over the rest of the season if they remain semi-healthy. Even though the Clippers have won the games, they haven’t necessarily played great, and escaped against the Lakers and Kings by the skin of their teeth. Still, their talent (mostly the scoring abilities of Blake Griffin and Lou Williams) won out in the end. Without one of them in the game, the Clippers’ offense completely falls apart. Their shot making has been truly remarkable, whether it’s Blake working in the post or Lou slicing to the rim. Lou in particular deserves a shout out for his 42 point effort against the Lakers last night, when he simply could not be stopped. When those guys are making their jump shots, the Clippers are very likely to put up a lot of points.
Doc continues to experiment with lineups:
Doc Rivers hasn’t coached perfectly this season. He’s made some rotational moves I haven’t agreed with, he rolls with certain players and lineups longer than he should, and his timeout usage isn’t always the best. That being said, no coach is flawless. Spurs fans complain about Pop all the time, as do Warriors fans with Kerr, and those are two coaches that almost every other team would love to have. Doc has done well this year with the tools he’s been given. The players don’t always execute that well, but I think the effort has mostly been there (with some notable exceptions), and I like what Doc has done in terms of lineup tinkering. For years Clippers’ fans have complained that he doesn’t play rookies or young players, and that he’s too stuck in his ways. Well, this season, he’s played three rookies extensive minutes. One of those rooks isn’t even on a full NBA contract (CJ Williams), and he’s worked his way into the rotation anyway! Not every coach would be willing to give large minutes to such inexperienced players, especially on a team that ostensibly trying to make the playoffs. Doc started out the year playing Willie Reed as the backup center, but has experimented with Montrezl Harrell over recent weeks because of his higher energy and explosiveness around the basket. Sam Dekker wasn’t getting minutes early, and fans were upset. Doc has slowly integrated him into the rotation, and he’s starting to look better and better. There are absolutely things Doc could be doing better, but I think he’s done a fine job as coach this season on the whole.
Milos and Gallo still injured:
The Clippers will continue to struggle offensively as long as Milos Teodosic and Danilo Gallinari are out. Sure, they will have nights when their outside shots are falling, or when Austin Rivers and Lou Williams’ forays to the basket are successful more often than not. But the free-flowing offense which entranced and excited fans in the preseason and early in the regular season won’t be a consistent occurrence without Milos and Gallo in the lineup. Milos is the best passer and playmaker on the Clippers by a country mile, and open looks come far more frequently with him on the court. Gallo is the second best offensive threat on the team behind Blake Griffin, and is a capable and willing passer himself. Those two won’t help the defense any (which is a real concern), but the offense suffering with them in street clothes makes sense. There’s still no timetable for either of them to return, though Gallo is more “week to week” as compared to Milos’ “out indefinitely”. Hopefully they return fully healed in short order.
Patrick Beverley’s season ending surgery:
Pat Beverley became a fan favorite within hours of his trade to the Clippers because of his tweets. That support only grew as fans got to see the ferocity and heart with which Pat played every minute of every game. He has only played 12 games in a Clippers’ uniform, yet is already one of the most beloved players on the team. Therefore, the news that Beverley needed microfracture surgery and was going to miss the rest of the season was a massive bummer for fans (and obviously devastating for Bev himself). Worse, Beverley was the Clippers’ 2nd or 3rd best player through the first couple weeks of the season, and was clearly the team’s biggest energy provider. He’s the best defensive player on the team, and one of the strongest outside shooters. His absence is going to be tough for the Clippers to recover from, especially for as long as Teodosic and Gallinari remain out. The Clippers will need to embody Beverley’s toughness and tenacity if they are to persist in their quest for the playoffs. He will be sorely missed.
Blake Griffin’s injury:
When Blake Griffin clutched his left knee towards the end of the 4th quarter last night, every Clippers’ fan watching probably get a horrid sense of déjà vu. That feeling only got worse when he limped to the locker room a couple minutes later. Blake is the Clippers’ best and most important player. If he were to go out for an extended period of time, especially if Gallinari and Teodosic were still out as well, the Clippers would be one of the worst teams in the NBA. While the injury didn’t appear to be super severe, even a month on the shelf with a strain would presumably doom the Clippers to an appearance in the lottery. The results of the examinations, which should come out sometime today, will be a big factor in determining whether the Clippers strive for the playoffs, or sink into a rebuild/tank. Blake Griffin re-signed this summer to be the Clips’ franchise player. Any injury to him is just about the worst news the team could possibly receive. Let’s just pray that he’s going to be all right.
Edit: Blake Griffin has an MCL sprain in his left knee, per David Aldridge of NBA.com (very reliable source), and will be out “for a while”. Adrian Wojnarowksi stated that Blake could miss up to two months, which would be at the higher end of the spectrum for this type of injury, but makes sense considering how cautious the Clippers have to be with Blake.