The worst possible scenario happened last week. The Clippers dropped three games (by a combined 64 points) and now are in the eighth spot in the West with a game left. This game will be played against the Utah Jazz, who the Clippers have not beaten since game six of the 2017 NBA playoffs. The worst part: even with a win, L.A. will need help. The Clips are a full game behind the Thunder (6th), which is really only like being a half game back with the tiebreaker the Clippers own thankfully. The Thunder play the Rockets and the Bucks on a traveling back-to-back, and the Clippers need them to lose to the Rockets — which could happen, but is no guarantee. What kind of stinks about this is that the Rockets have won six straight, and are now only a half game behind the Nuggets for the second seed. If the Clips jump the Thunder for 7, the Rockets beat the Thunder, and the Nuggets drop a game, the Rockets get the second seed, which would be a horrendous matchup for the ailing Clips. There is a path where the Clips can get to the 6th seed, but it would take a Spurs loss to a tanking Mavericks team, a Clips win and the Thunder to drop a game. Also, the Jazz play the Nuggets Tuesday. If the Jazz win, they will more than likely rest their better players against L.A. Wednesday, as the fifth seed would be officially locked in. Essentially, a ton has to go right for the Clips in their direct competition and atop the West standings. It’s not looking good.
The Clippers picked the wrong time to become tired, worn-down, and unmotivated. Even L.A.’s own players admitted to taking their foot off the gas after clinching a playoff spot two weeks ago. This lack of energy was really felt in a blown game against the Lakers that saw 47-year-old Alex Caruso score 32 points and grab 10 boards to secure a meaningless victory for the purple and gold and a devastating five-point loss for the Clips, who desperately needed an insurance win for standings purposes. The losses to the Rockets and Warriors were expected as the Clippers were without two key pieces in both games in Patrick Beverley, JaMychal Green (2 games) and Danilo Gallinari. However, did they need to get beat THAT bad? Those were horrendous watches, and truly showed the disparity right now between the Clippers and the top of the conference.
The past three games have exposed the hell out of L.A.’s defense without stalwarts in Green and Bev, and has also exposed the Clippers 2nd unit. With some starting-lineup movement, the bench has been tinkered with and doesn’t look good. The Chandler-Trez-Lou trio has been getting absolutely fried defensively, and has failed to do any significant damage offensively either over the last three games. Are the Clips (and more importantly, their bench) finally getting figured out? Or is this just late-season fatigue and truly resting up before the big show? Hopefully, the latter. However, this relaxing could cost them a more favorable playoff matchup later this week, and make the first round a quick one.
Quick question for readers of this piece (by the way…quick thank you if you have been reading these all year!): should the Clippers pick up one more player with the waiving of Luc Mbah A Moute? Or convert Angel Delgado or Johnathan Motley? Let us know below!
This week: 10th, Last week: 8th
Notes: After a 13-2 March had the Clippers as high as fifth place, an 0-3 April has them back in eighth and in a potential matchup with the Warriors (who have beat the Clips by a total of 45 points in the last two meetings). Patrick Beverley (right hip pointer) has been out all three games and, with Lou Williams shooting 33 percent, L.A. has scored a paltry 102 points per 100 possessions over the losing streak. The Clippers can still move back up with some help from opponents of the Thunder and/or Spurs. No matter what, their return to the postseason (at the expense of, among others, their arena-mates) is one of the best stories in the league -- a story they can recount to free agents come July 1.
This week: 10th, Last week: 9th
Notes: Setting aside all the acquisitions and departures, this season’s Clippers team has one of the more unique roster compositions in the league. If the Clippers have one overriding identity, it might be “competent.” Their most frequent tandem and most productive pick-and-roll combo is Lou Williams (zero starts) and Montrezl Harrell (four starts). Although they will likely start three players age 22 and younger in the postseason, the Clippers are a veteran-laden shop that includes Danilo Gallinari, who is having far and away his most efficient season in his 11th campaign.
The Athletic (paywall)
This week: 10th, Last week: 10th
Notes: This season was a nice reminder of what Doc Rivers can do with a group of role players..... We learned that the Clippers are run like a real organization now....
This week: 13th, Last week 3rd
Notes: Worst Rank: 17 (21)
Best Rank: 3
Best Case: Everything breaks their way, they get Portland in the first round, and win an entertaining series before bowing out in a seven-game thriller against the Spurs, Thunder or Nuggets.
Worst Case: They stay in the eighth seed, get swept and then don’t make any big moves in the offseason despite creating proving to be a well-run machine.
Prediction: They stay in the eight and make Golden State work harder than it did Sunday in at least two or three games of the series. Or they get lucky and slide into seven where they upset the Nuggets.
Authors notes: Rankings below were written before the disastrous weekend the Clippers just had
This week: 8th, Last week: 8th
Notes: It’s a little dangerous to fixate on individual performances this late in the year, but Danilo Gallinari’s 27-point, 15-rebound, five-assist effort against the Grizzlies on Sunday was legitimate enough to warrant mention.
It was the first game with those three-category totals in Gallo’s career, and Memphis is still trying to win games to convey its top-eight protected pick in the 2019 draft. This wasn’t the typical late-season stat-stuffing effort.
Gallinari is in line to finish with career highs in points and rebounds per game while also setting a new personal best in true shooting percentage. Just as importantly, he’s stayed healthy. This will be the first time since 2012-13 that Gallo has taken the floor in at least 65 games.
The Clips took down the Cavs and Grizzlies before they fell to the Rockets at home Wednesday, but they still have the West’s second-best record since March 1.
Their priority must be overtaking the Jazz for that fifth spot in the West, which would allow L.A. to duck the Rockets (and draw the banged-up Blazers) in the first round.
This week: 10th, Last week: N/A
Notes: The league’s most dangerous bench, a coach back on his game and Jerry West sitting upstairs. Get ‘em now, opponents, because you do not want to deal with this team after they reload in the offseason.