The Clippers may have enjoyed their first winning week (2-1) since early January, but a Monday loss to the Raptors seems to have left our group of rankers unfazed. Though wins against the Knicks and Hornets aren’t overwhelmingly impressive, the play of Blake Griffin most certainly is. His weekly averages of 26.0 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 8.0 (!) assists earned him Western Conference Player of the Week honors for the first time in two seasons. He seems to be settling in to his point forward role with Chris Paul still out of the lineup, a development that bodes well for the next several weeks of Clippers basketball sans the Point God. He looks increasingly comfortable running the offense and distributing, and we all know his ball handling and passing skills have always been off the charts. If nothing else, I’m hoping that this recent stretch will nudge Doc Rivers in the direction of giving staggering a real shot once Chris returns. They’re going to need Blake to continue his stellar play, as the schedule only gets more difficult in the coming weeks.
ESPN (Marc Stein) - 13 Last Week: 14
The Clippers start the last week before the All-Star break in Salt Lake City in what, at the present, would represent a first-round playoff preview with Utah at No. 4 and L.A. at No. 5 in the West. (The Jazz, incidentally, are only 3-8 against the Warriors, Spurs, Rockets, Clippers and Grizzlies ... so it's also a biggie for them.) Pay particular attention to the fourth quarter, because the Clips are 0-13 on the road this season in games in which they trailed at any point in the final period. (Brooklyn, at 0-23, is the league's only other winless team in those situations.) Blake Griffin, meanwhile, is starting to work himself into a nice groove as he awaits Chris Paul's return, averaging better than 25 PPG over his last seven games.
NBA.com (John Schuhmann) - 10 LW: 9
The Clippers have dropped from sixth to 16th in defensive efficiency since Chris Paul's (latest) injury, but their offense was good enough in New York and Charlotte last week to put together two straight wins for the first time since Paul injured his thumb. Blake Griffin has been terrific and Jamal Crawford has followed a brutal January with 50 percent shooting in February. He's been one of the better clutch shooters in the league this season (47 percent from the field, 6-for-14 from 3-point range) and hit the two biggest shots in Wednesday's win at Madison Square Garden.
NBC Sports (Kurt Helin) - 13 LW: 14
With Chris Paul sidelined, Jamal Crawford has stepped up his game scoring 20 points a game and shooting 51.4 percent from three in his last five games. Crawford and Blake Griffin are carrying the Clippers offense of late. The Clippers have gone 4-6 on a tough stretch of road games, but it doesn’t end now with the Jazz and Warriors on the road this week.
CBS Sports (Matt Moore) - 15 LW: 14
They're over halfway done with Chris Paul's injury timeframe. It sure doesn't seem like they intend to make any major changes at the deadline, the Melo trade hanging overhead as the exception. This may be the last three months of this core's existence so fans that have enjoyed it should really soak it up. Even with the injuries the Clippers are still sixth in offense this season, which is a credit to Doc Rivers.
Sports Illustrated (Jeremy Woo) - 10 LW: 13
This entire 10–13 tier was messy this week, because the Pacers beat the Thunder and the Raptors beat the Clippers, but neither the Pacers nor Raptors had a great week otherwise. Consider this a reminder that these Power Rankings are highly subjective.
This column is going to be an exercise in patience until Chris Paul returns and we get another look at what a fully-healthy squad looks like heading into the playoffs. With that said, this week’s batch of rankings provide some interesting insight into the team’s recent performance. Marc Stein, who always seems to have a unique stat at the ready, points out that the Clippers are 0-13 in road games in which they trail at any point in the fourth quarter. It’s hard to say whether that indicates a lack of resilience or is just coincidental in how games have played out, but it would be encouraging to see the Clippers win more of those back-and-forth road battles.
John Schuhmann notes that the Clippers have fallen from 6th to 16th in defensive efficiency in the relatively short time since Chris Paul has been injured, a remarkable drop-off when you consider that those games make up just slightly more than a fifth of the season. Talk about a two-way player...
Finally, Kurt Helin gives Jamal Crawford credit for keeping this Clippers team afloat, a sentence which I wasn’t sure I’d get to write ever again with the way he was playing in January. As ice-cold as he was, he’s found his stroke and has pulled off a string of efficient games that have been particularly valuable given J.J. Redick’s recent struggles.
The Clippers close out their road trip tonight in Salt Lake City, taking on a Utah Jazz team that would be their first-round matchup if the playoffs started today. They’ll return home to face the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday then all eyes turn to DeAndre Jordan as we try and contain our excitement for his long-awaited dunk contest debut. No word yet on what type of mode of transportation he’ll be leaping over to one-up his buddy, Blake.