20 weeks are down in a wild NBA season, and the Clippers - despite a ton of internal movement and up-and-down play - still hold a two game lead over the Sacramento Kings for the eighth seed in the West.
After a hard-fought victory over the Memphis Grizzlies Friday 112-106, the Clippers went to Denver and got trounced by 27 points, their second worst loss this season. I don’t think many of us were expecting a win there but a better fight would have been nice, especially after only being down 3 at half. What happened in the Denver game is indicative of a problem that has hobbled the Clippers all season. The lack of fire coming out of halftime. The Clippers are routinely outscored and out-willed in the third, where they’ve posted a -3.4 net rating this season. Despite a stretch of nice third quarters right before the all-star break, in back-to-back games they have had huge letdowns in the third frame. If this trend continues, it doesn’t matter how good L.A. is in the fourth (average an NBA-best 29 ppq and a net rating of 7.2), clawing your way back on a nightly basis is exhausting and hard to keep up. They were able to survive another bad 3rd against the Mavs, but how much longer will that last?
A change of lineups to start the second half could be a positive change. Start with a few more buckets by inserting Lou Williams, maybe an energy boost in subbing Zubac for Harrell? A change will need to happen if L.A. wants to be a playoff team. Anyway, let’s take a look and see where the NBA media has L.A. right now.
This week: 13th, Last week: 14th
Notes: These are interesting times for the Clippers, who have essentially cycled through three rosters over the past 14 months. Word is that ownership would like to see the team qualify for the postseason, even if it means forfeiting a first-round pick in June’s draft in exchange for being a first-round sacrificial lamb. To that end, Friday night’s date at Sacramento suddenly has big implications.
This week: 16th, Last week: 16th
Notes: Worst-case scenario: The Clippers worst case is, strangely, that they make the playoffs ... that they sneak in as the eight-seed, get embarrassed in a first-round sweep by the Warriors, and lose their first-round pick to the Boston Celtics.
This week: 14th, Last week: 12th
Notes: This is the second of two meetings in a month for these teams, and it’s the one that is sure to mean the most as both teams only have two games remaining after this meeting. Will the Clippers help keep the Lakers out of the playoffs? Are the Clippers still trying to make the playoffs themselves? What if the Clippers beat the Lakers, but still missed the playoffs and used their draft pick to land Anthony Davis over the Lakers? So many questions.
This week: 13th, Last week 14th
Notes: The Clippers are still hanging onto eighth place in the West and still heavily dependent on their reserves. With all their changes, they still have just one starter -- Danilo Gallinari -- who can score somewhat consistently and/or prolifically. Their latest starting lineup (with Landry Shamet and Ivica Zubac) has good numbers defensively, but has scored just 86 points on its 92 offensive possessions, and their loss in Denver on Sunday (with their starting backcourt shooting 0-for-10) was their worst offensive game of the season. The Clippers have the league’s most home-heavy remaining schedule (with 14 of 21 at Staples Center, though they’re the visiting team for one of those), but their most important game left to play is in Sacramento (where the Kings have won nine of their last 10) on Friday.