As a historically vocal opponent of Paul Pierce ever seeing the floor in a Clippers uniform, let me just start by acknowledging what a cool moment that was yesterday in his TD Garden send-off. In a Clippers tenure short on highlights, he delivered one of the more memorable ones of the season, as his three-ball rattled home and sent the stadium into a frenzy. He has had a remarkable career and it seemed only fitting that he would bless the city of Boston with good juju on a day where their football team needed every ounce it could get.
The Clippers’ week was very much a mixed bag, as they started off with a win over the Suns, held their own (relatively speaking) against the Warriors, and gave the Celtics a run for their pot of gold in a bizarre Sunday matinee. Blake Griffin put up the first 30-point game of the Clippers’ season against the Warriors and, along with Raymond Felton and Jamal Crawford, was one of the few bright spots of a lackluster performance against Boston. He’s back and the offense is humming, but the defense has become a sieve without Chris Paul. The squad needs DeAndre Jordan to step up and assume his role of defensive anchor if they hope to compete with the league’s most efficient offenses while CP works his way back.
ESPN (Marc Stein) - 14 Last Week: 13
The Clippers are the only team in the league that will be asked to play 10 road games within an 11-game span this season. They lost three of five on the road from Jan. 21 through Feb. 1, returned home for a one-game pasting by the Warriors, then began another five-game trip Sunday with what we all believe to be Paul Pierce's final appearance at Boston Garden. According to ESPN's Basketball Power Index, LA's February schedule ranks as the toughest month any team will face all season, followed by the Suns' December and Houston's March; Oklahoma City's January and Chicago's March are tied for fourth. The Clippers, of course, are facing all of this without Chris Paul. They're 19-7 this season when CP3, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan are all in uniform but have been missing at least one of them just as often, and are 12-13 in those games.
NBA.com (John Schuhmann) - 9 LW: 10
Blake Griffin had the Fancy Pass of the Week and has averaged 23.0 points on 53 percent shooting since his return. The Clippers' offense has been potent (121 points scored per 100 possessions) with Raymond Felton, J.J. Redick and Austin Rivers on the floor together over the last eight games, and Paul Pierce got a proper send-off in Boston on Sunday. But hold off on the DeAndre-Jordan-for-Defensive-Player-of-the-Year campaign, as the Clippers have ranked last defensively (118.3 points allowed per 100 possessions) since Chris Paul's injury. The good news on that front is that the only top-10 offense that they face between now and the All-Star break is one (that of the Raptors) that has regressed quite a bit over the last few weeks.
NBC Sports (Kurt Helin) - 14 LW: 13
Los Angeles is 2-5 on a rough stretch of games that has them mostly on the road (to make way for the Grammys at Staples Center). Los Angeles’ offense has been good since Blake Griffin’s return — he’s an underrated playmaker and their shooters are knocking down shots — but the defense has been terrible. Four more games on the road coming up, including at Toronto and Utah.
CBS Sports (Matt Moore) - 14 LW: 12
"Hey, maybe we should sacrifice all of our depth for a ball-dominant, high-usage star who doesn't defend," is an idea being floated, which shows you how bleak their prospects are with what is still a very talented core. Imagine if this team was in the East. How good would they feel about their situation?
Sports Illustrated (Jeremy Woo) - 13 LW: 13
OK, so this could totally be filed under Celtics news, but take a minute to revisit Paul Pierce draining this three at the end of his last game in Boston. Between this and the Super Bowl, good day for New England. The Clippers…rode shotgun.
Despite a losing week, the Clippers stock didn’t take much of a hit. It’s hard to call a 13-point loss a figurative victory, but when it comes on the heels of a loss as disheartening as the one the Clippers suffered in the previous Golden State matchup, any semblance of competitiveness was cause enough for encouragement. And while the offense looked uncharacteristically out of sync against Boston, the Eastern Conference’s second-place team, the defense rebounded from a poor first-half showing and withstood a game-long barrage of threes to keep the game close down the stretch.
As Marc Stein highlights, this stretch of games is this toughest for any team all season, but if the Clippers are able to tread water long enough and Houston continues to slip back into the muddled Western Conference, the three-seed could still be in play upon Chris Paul’s return. Wins won’t be easy to find in February, but this week presents the best opportunity for a run of sorts, with the three games coming against the slumping Raptors, imploding Knicks, and middling Hornets. It’s imperative that the Clippers capitalize on this stretch of beatable opponents before the All-Star break, but it’s going to take increased defensive intensity and better performances from everyone not named Blake Griffin to do so.