Breathe Chris. Breathe. Let us not forget that you yourself projected the Clippers to be the third seed in the West. Let us not forget that load management has reared its (somewhat) ugly head recently and that the Clippers have played the second most back-to-backs in the NBA. Let’s not forget that Paul George is still working his way back and this team is still fairly new to themselves and still trying to fine-tune their chemistry. After witnessing what happened this week (and Saturday as well, against the Bulls) it’s important that perspective is at the forefront of the minds of Clipper fans. It’s only December. This team needs the time between now and the start of the playoffs in April to really become a team. Let’s breathe a bit.
Ok, now that we have the rational platitudes out of the way. Let’s blow off a bit of steam for a second. This week showed a ton of flaws in the Clippers. The most glaring? The way the offense stagnates/is mistake prone when they get a big lead. This is a team with a champion coaching staff and a squad rife with veterans yet they seem to take their foot off the gas at important times. It’s incredibly frustrating to witness Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, and Lou Williams try to ISO every time down, instead of doing exactly what worked to get the lead in the first place, or force passes cross-court or to rollers that aren’t there. All players are averaging career-highs in turnovers this season and it shows. Obviously, it’s hard to not want the ball in these guys hands given their ability to score and create, but the way the offense stalls when they get out of a semblance of an offense is allowing teams like the Rockets and Thunder this week to get back into games. Granted, this is a tad nit-picky but it’s very irritating to see leads evaporate because veterans abandon their offensive principles and try to do it themselves or make rookie passing mistakes.
Another reason for blown leads? Teams are starting to target the hell out of Lou (and less so Montrezl Harrell) on defense. He was down the scope for the Thunder last night and they played him like a fiddle on that end. SGA, Dennis Schroder, CP3, Darius Bazley — it didn’t matter. Lou couldn’t hang with any of them and got burned. We’ll probably have more on this particular trend this week at the site but boy it’s concerning.
Let’s see where NBA media members have the Clippers ranked out of 30 teams before the 10th week of the season.
This week: 3, Last week: 3
Notes: “It has been a tad choppy lately for the Clippers, who are 2-3 in their past five games. Some of that is because of their choppy lineups as they rest players and deal with injuries. Their game Sunday in Oklahoma City featured a fourth-quarter stumble, as the Thunder shut down Paul George and Lou Williams and scored at will on the other end while Kawhi Leonard and Patrick Beverley sat. But it might just mean the stars are properly aligned for Christmas Day against the Lakers; people certainly will not overreact at all to the outcome of that game.”
This week: 3, Last week: 3
Notes: “Kawhi Leonard had some extra zip Saturday, snatching four steals and triggering several San Antonio turnovers that led to runout buckets for the Clippers in the 134-109 win. He had four dunks of his own on the night, quite a total considering he’d slammed just 16 times in his previous 22 games.
Other than Thursday’s contentious loss to the Houston Rockets, the Clippers looked good this past week. L.A. also beat the Phoenix Suns and barely lost to the Thunder without Leonard in Oklahoma City to move to 22-10 overall.
The Clippers aren’t without their bad habits. OKC roughed them up under the glass and capitalized on careless turnovers, two pesky Clipper habits. Los Angeles’ depth gives it a chance to win under any circumstances—even on the road and without Leonard, who rested on the second game of a back-to-back set as usual. But not if the Clips don’t compete with physicality and take care of the ball. Still, in games which Leonard and Paul George have played together, the Clips are 11-3.”
This week: 8, Last week: 5
Notes: “The Clippers lost on their home court to the Rockets on national TV, then fell to a hot Thunder team in OKC without Kawhi Leonard to close out the week. Nobody’s doubting the Clippers’ talent, but it’s clear they still have a lot to figure out in terms of rotations. The return of Landry Shamet adds yet another quality NBA player, but that means fewer minutes for someone else. The Clippers are nowhere near a finished product, and they’re certainly fine with that.”
This week: 3, Last week: 3
Notes: “The Clippers squandered a 15-point halftime lead to the Rockets and an 18-point second-quarter lead to the Thunder. That’s a little concerning, but likely just a small blip for a team constructed with the playoffs in mind.”
This week: 4, Last week: 3
Notes: “The Lakers aren’t the only team stumbling into the Staples Center game on Christmas. The Clippers’ win in San Antonio on Saturday was one of their most complete performances of the season, but they’ve lost three of their last five games, with late-game defense a problem in all three losses. The Bulls, Rockets and Thunder combined to shoot 15-for-22 and rebounded five of their seven misses with the score within five points in the last five minutes over the last nine days. The Clippers now rank 29th (126 points allowed per 100 possessions) in clutch defense, having grabbed just 56% of available defensive rebounds with the score within five in the last five. They rank ninth in defensive rebounding percentage overall, but have grabbed less than 70% of available defensive boards, a rate that would rank last, with Kawhi Leonard off the floor. Bench minutes were a problem again - they were outscored 24-14 in 7:00 with both Paul George and Leonard on the bench - against Houston on Thursday.”
This week: 7, Last week; N/A
Notes: “Last season, the Raptors were able to sustain success even when Kawhi Leonard was sidelined or resting. Toronto went 17-5 in the 22 games Kawhi sat out in 2018-19. The Clippers record sans Kawhi has not been nearly as impressive, as they are just 4-4 in such contests, including two straight losses to Chicago and OKC.”