Last night’s game (Sunday, Nov. 3) was the perfect symbolism of how Kawhi Leonard can elevate a team with his singular play. After struggling for the majority the game with his shot and scoring in general (along with all of the starters sans Ivica Zubac), Kawhi remembered that he’s a god among mere mortals and poured in 18 fourth quarter points to win the fourth quarter by 15 points and subsequently win the game by 11, 105-94. Another important win given the equality of records of the two teams going in, and a confidence boost for a team that is still struggling a bit to shoot with efficiency and find lineups that fit.
This week saw wins over the Hornets (shaky), Spurs (a bit better but still not very convincing), and then Utah (shaky) as well as a loss against the Jazz without Kawhi (expected). Getting to 5-2 despite not playing their best ball shows that Kawhi is a superstar, the bench depth is still kicking ass, and the Clips can gut out wins, just like they were doing last season. All told, with the strength of schedule that the Clips are enduring and the chemistry still finding it’s way — LA is doing a good job of finding a way to win. The defense is starting to look better, Lou and Trezz are doing Lou and Trezz things, Zubac is showing amazing progress, and JaMychal Green is the best three-point shooter of all time. Even better news? This team still has a ways to go for its final form. Hell yeah.
Let’s take a look where NBA media members have the Clippers ranked this week in the third installment of Power Rankings Watch here at Clips Nation.
This week: 3, Last week: 1
Notes: “What separates the Clippers is the rare combination of top-tier superstar talent layered with high-level depth. And that was on full display against the Jazz, with 50 points from the bench to go with 30 from Kawhi Leonard. Even if they need to deploy more load management for Leonard throughout the season, they should be able to absorb his production. Oh, and have we mentioned Paul George should be back soon?”
This week: 4, Last week: 3
Notes: “The Clippers lost on the road to Utah in the first of many inevitable “load management” games for Kawhi Leonard. They got their revenge at home on Sunday, however, and Leonard looked every bit of the MVP candidate he’s projected to be while scoring 18 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter. This team is already a well-oiled machine, which will only get more devastating with the return of Paul George.”
This week: 4, Last week: 1
Notes: “Kawhi Leonard posted 38 points and 12 rebounds on his old pals, the San Antonio Spurs, handing his former team its first loss of the year on Thursday. The most surprising aspect of Leonard’s stat line: He managed just one assist. In an illustration of Leonard’s remarkable growth as a passer, it was the first time he’d had fewer than five helpers in a game this year. Showing deft touch on one-handed bounce passes in the pick-and-roll and looking off defenders more cleverly than ever before, he may have completed the final stage of his evolution into the league’s most complete offensive weapon. Imagine the passing angles that’ll materialize when Paul George returns.
The Clippers fell to the Phoenix Suns last week and dropped Wednesday’s road contest in Utah by a final of 110-96, but two straight wins to close out this rankings session has them at 5-2 with the Milwaukee Bucks on the schedule Nov. 6.”
This week: 2, Last week: 1
Notes: “Kawhi Leonard is handling additional playmaking duties with ease. He’s scoring over a point per possession as a pick-and-roll ball handler, posting a 52% eFG. Leonard’s mid-range shot has been established for a half decade. His improved vision is a new trick for perhaps the game’s best player.”
This week: 5, Last week: N/A
Notes: “We’re not even a full two weeks into the season and Kawhi Leonard’s load management has kicked in. We all saw how fresh and revived he was for the playoffs last year in Toronto. And besides, this Clippers team has plenty of scrappy players who can help fill the void from time to time when Leonard takes a night off.”
This week: 2, Last week: 1
Notes: “Every time he steps on the floor, Kawhi Leonard continues to prove why he’s considered by many to be the best player in the NBA today.
The Clippers suffered a tough loss to the Jazz with Leonard sitting out on “load management”, but the two-time Finals MVP made sure his team bounced back by going for 38 points in a win over the Spurs.
In redemption for a few days prior, Leonard scored 30 points in a payback with over Utah to close things out for the week.
He’s scored at least 20 points in all six of the games he’s played in and has already scored over 30 points four times. His passing has improved with Montrezl Harrell as the perfect pick-and-roll partner and the Clippers as a whole continue to impress as one of the best teams in the league.”