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Clippings: The conference finals halo is apparently gone

After an ugly start to the season, expectations for the Clippers have plummeted.

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Oklahoma City Thunder v LA Clippers Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

After the Clippers reached the conference finals for the first time in franchise history last season, there remains a great deal of respect for what this squad can be at full health. However, the current iteration is far from full health, and the estimation of this team has fallen dramatically.

Oddly enough, without their two-time defensive player of the year and a two-time blocks leader in the lineup, the Clippers have been fine defensively. But the offense has cratered, making the Clippers worse than expected and substantially less watchable, to boot. That sentiment carries through this week’s power rankings.

Note: These rankings were compiled before the Clippers’ win over Oklahoma City Monday.


This week: 23rd | Last week: 18th

The Clippers have struggled to rediscover the connectivity they had during last season’s run to the Western Conference finals. With Kawhi Leonard and Serge Ibaka out and Marcus Morris Sr. missing the past three games due to injury, the Clippers are off to a 1-4 start. Paul George continues to do everything he can to carry the load, scoring 42 points in a loss to Portland — the second time this season he has cracked 40 points. But he needs more help. In that 19-point loss at Portland, Luke Kennard was the only other Clipper to score in double figures. Coach Ty Lue isn’t overreacting, but the Clippers have dropped their past two games by an average of 16 points.

This week: 22nd | Last week: 16th

The Clippers went from allowing 117 points per 100 possessions in an 0-2 Week 1 to allowing just 93 per 100 in Week 2. And they got their first win of the season by holding the Blazers to just 86 points on 114 possessions, their worst offensive game since Feb. of 2013 (the Clippers’ Nicolas Batum shot 1-for-10 for Portland that night). The Clippers have a top-10 defense the league’s best turnover differential (-7.8 per game) by a wide margin, with the lowest turnover rate (11.3 per 100 possessions) on offense and the second-highest opponent turnover rate (18.9 per 100) on the other end.

But, aside from the low turnovers and Paul George averaging 27.6 points on an effective field goal percentage of 58%, the Clippers’ offense has been rough. Last season, they were held under a point per possession just four times and their worst five-game stretch of offense was 108.5 per 100. After that win over the Blazers, the Clips had two brutal offensive games against the Cavs and in Portland, with players not named George shooting 34%. After five games, they’re hovering right at that point-per-possession mark, unable to get to the line or give themselves many second chances.

Sports Illustrated

This week: 23rd | Last week: 23rd

Paul George is fifth in the NBA in scoring but not much else has gone right for the Clippers. Their last two losses have been blowouts, Reggie Jackson looks nothing like the player he was during the playoffs and injuries are taking a toll, with Marcus Morris the latest to join Serge Ibaka and Kawhi Leonard on the bench.

The Athletic

This week: 20th | Last week: 18th

Outside of Paul George, the LA Clippers just can’t make shots. Nothing to panic over through five games, but PG’s production alone can’t carry them. They need literally everybody else to step up right now, no matter which players are available. Reggie Jackson continues to struggle. Luke Kennard and maybe Ivica Zubac are the only other reliable Clippers on offense right now. Clippers not named Paul George are shooting 39.5 percent from the field and 29.9 percent from 3-point range. Get George some help as soon as you can.

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