Let’s be frank here, this was not a good week for the Clippers. L.A. is 1-3 in their last four games after vaulting to the top of the Western Conference standings on the strength of a 9-1 home record and multiple big wins against top competition. The Clips have been playing better than many expected, and this partially due to being slept-on all season. They play with toughness, aggression, and boundless energy, led by underrated players that are cast-offs from other teams and have chips on their shoulders to prove people wrong. They also have a tendency to win close games, which is awesome, but at this early juncture of the season could led to wear and tear.
This past week, it looked as though some of this fatigue set in, as we witnessed the Clippers’ worst week all season. They finished up a treacherous West Coast road trip 1-2, and dropped an extremely winnable game to a broken-down Miami Heat team with only eight available players. The Clippers have played extensively on the road thus far, and with these tough finishes and long games, the Clips need to be careful. We shouldn’t press the panic button yet, but this week showed that the Clippers have some glaring issues (mainly playing with leads, guard rotations, rebounding, and lack of consistent defense) they need to fix.
The Clippers have weathered an absolutely brutal schedule (fourth hardest according to ESPN) and will have to continue to this trend, as December brings 10 opponents over .500 at the time. This is put-up or shut-up time for the Clippers, and if they struggle before New Years, this early momentum could be gone very quickly. Let’s see where people in the NBA media circles have the Clippers eight weeks into the season.
This week: 4th, Last week: 8th
Notes: “Is the Clippers’ return to earth after a 11-3 November a blip in an otherwise promising season or a regression to the mean? They were outscored 30-8 in a gruesome fourth-quarter meltdown on Saturday to Miami, and they rank 26th in both Second Spectrum’s shot-quality metric and effective field-goal percentage during December. After being named November’s Western Conference Player of the Month, Tobias Harris has trailed off, posting an effective field-goal percentage of only 41.7 during the Clippers’ 1-3 December.”
This week: 7th, Last week: 3rd
Notes: “The Clippers were tied after the third quarter in Memphis on Wednesday, and they trailed by one after three against Miami on Saturday. And by getting outscored 57-25 in the fourth quarter of the two games (shooting 7-for-28 and committing 12 turnovers), they doubled the number of games that they’ve lost by double-digits. Last season, Lou Williams’ true shooting percentage increased with each quarter (from 51 percent in the first to 63 percent in the fourth). This season, it has gone the other way (from 59 percent in the first to 47 percent in the fourth). The Clips have lost three out of four (and have been held under a point per possession in two straight games) for the first time this season, with their non-centers having shot 34 percent in the three losses.”
This week: 9th, Last week: 8th
Notes: “The Clippers have lost two in a row, including getting smoked at home against a Miami Heat team that only had eight players and playing the second night of a road back-to-back. The Clippers have the depth and talent that they ought to stay in the playoff mix in the stout Western Conference all season. Get this: Boban Marjanovic has the lowest defensive field goal percentage among NBA centers.”
This week: 7th, Last week: 5th
Notes: “Tobias Harris earned Western Conference Player of the Month* for November, and for a starless Clippers team that has succeeded by committee all year, he’s become a focal points of sorts. The offense remains excellent, Wednesday’s strangulation by the Grizzlies notwithstanding, but L.A. will need to shore up some of its defensive issues to keep its early-season magic going. The Clippers force the fewest turnovers in the league, which costs them chances to get more easy buckets in transition, where they rank in the league’s bottom 10 in percentage of points generated on the run. Fortunately, they also take care of the ball on offense...unless Patrick Beverley is purposely throwing it into the stands. L.A. went 1-2 to close out its four-game road trip this week, and it needed a clutch jumper from Lou Williams to best the Pelicans on Monday for its lone win. *Just go with it and pretend LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Nikola Jokic, James Harden and several others don’t exist.”
This week: 6th, Last week: 4th
Notes: “And just like that the Clippers have lost three of their last four and are on just their second losing streak of the season. With the Suns up next, there is little reason to believe this team will lose a third consecutive game. But with the Raptors coming to town the very next day after Phoenix, the Clippers need to make sure they address the issues that led to them scoring just 86 points in Memphis and losing by 23 to Miami. Tobias Harris shooting better than 10-for-32 from the field and scoring more than 27 points over two games could go a long way in correcting whatever problems there might be.”