January thus far has gone a bit smoother than December. After a 6-9 month that saw the Clippers play some of their worst, and some of their best ball of the season, things have evened out a bit to start the first month of 2019. After dropping a game against the Sixers on the first day of January, the Clippers won back-to-back games against the Suns and Magic — games they had to win and luckily took care of despite some sloppy play.
The Clippers are an enigma of sorts: they rarely put together a great four quarters, yet are still winning games. I know that it’s not unusual to have up-and-down play throughout a game but whether it’s a bad first quarter, third quarter or an amazing final frame, the Clips definitely take the rollercoaster route throughout a ballgame. At 23-16, the Clips are still right in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race, and on the right side of a five seed but there are things to work on. As of late, L.A. has been pretty turnover prone (13.7 in their last three, ranked 20th overall for the whole season) and they haven’t been shooting well. Late game defense is also a struggle, as the Suns clawed their way back from a 27 point deficit to get the game to single digits late as did the Kings late in December. The Clips have a bad habit of taking their foot off the gas when they are up and letting teams close the gap. They also play down to their competition early in games then claw back late. This isn’t very sustainable for the rest of the season, and L.A. could do themselves big favors by learning how to push leads even further.
Despite the flaws, the Clips are in a position that very few thought they would be in at this point in the season. As a team they are also shooting an effective field goal per game of 52.8% and rank eighth in offensive efficiency in the NBA. They are winning games with offense and sometimes giving up games with lackluster defense despite having two of the “best perimeter defenders in the league” in Patrick Beverley and Avery Bradley. It’s a consistency thing, and hopefully the Clippers can pull it together to take advantage of a softer January schedule. Let’s see where the Clips stand in the eyes of the NBA media going into the second week of January.
This week: 11th, Last week: 11th
Notes: “It has been touch and go for the Clippers for a while now -- bad home losses sprinkled with some high-energy, workmanlike victories. But here they are sitting at the No. 4 seed in the West, with a fair number of home games ahead over the next couple of weeks. Wily vets Patrick Beverley and Marcin Gortat have come on strong for the Clips on both ends of the floor, and the defense, which had been scuttling, has stabilized both on the ball and against the pick-and-roll.”
This week: 14th, Last week: 12th
Notes: “After consecutive losses to the Spurs and 76ers, it was good for the Clippers to pick up expected wins by beating the Suns and Magic. With the Hornets and Pistons coming to Los Angeles this week and a trip to Denver sandwiched between, the Clippers should go at least 2-1 again this week. If not, maybe we can deduce that their 6-9 December record was more indicative of who they are.”
This week: 12th, Last week: 13th
Notes: “The Clippers are 10 games through a stretch where they’re playing 12 of 16 at home and two games into a stretch where they’re playing five of six against teams with losing records. The favorable schedule has allowed them to regain their footing (after losing six of seven in early December), and they’ve scored more than 115 points per 100 possessions as they’ve won six of their last nine. Their starting lineup had some better minutes in weekend wins over the Suns and Magic (take that for what it’s worth), with Marcin Gortat having his best game of the season (18 points and 13 rebounds) in Phoenix on Friday. Gortat has played in the fourth quarter in all three of the Clippers’ January games, having only touched the floor in the fourth quarter for a single free throw (that went in) prior to that.”
This week: 10th, Last week: 9th
Notes: “I don’t know what to call Tobias Harris. Is he a superstar? Is he even a star? He doesn’t seem to have that mentality that comes with a superstar; he’s just one of those guys who gets his work done in the hardest working way possible. All I know is that there is one player in the NBA who averages 20-plus points per game and eight-plus rebounds per game while shooting above 40 percent from 3. That player’s name is Tobias Harris.”
This week: 11th, Last week: N/A
Notes: “The Clips began a stretch in which they will play six of seven games at home by beating the Magic in Los Angeles on Sunday. The Clips hope to stockpile some wins in hopes of maintaining their spot in the top half of the Western Conference playoff picture.”