The Clippers have won four in a row to get over .500 for the first time season. Paul George earned Western Conference player of the week honors after a perfect seven days, but he isn’t the only Clipper who is starting to figure things out offensively, as Reggie Jackson, Luke Kennard, and Nicolas Batum all shot at least 50 percent from three over the last four games.
Pair an improving offense with the third-best defense in the league, and it’s clear the Clippers are wasting no time getting back on track. Here’s how their return to form rated them in this week’s power rankings.
This week: 20th | Last week: 23rd
After a slow start, the Clippers have that fight back in them that helped them reach the conference finals last season. They’ve won four straight and rallied from deficits in three of the victories. They came back from 20 down to beat Minnesota in one of their two wins over the Wolves last week. And they put the clamps on the Hornets’ offense in the fourth on Sunday. And the Clippers got Serge Ibaka back from the back surgery he underwent last postseason. Ty Lue’s team is beginning to look more like itself.
This week: 18th | Last week: 22nd
The Clippers are alive, winning four straight games to rebound from a 1-4 start. The opponents haven’t been great and they’ve alternated ugly wins with more efficient ones, but they’ve gotten consistency from their bench. Neither Terance Mann nor Luke Kennard has started a game this season, but they’ve played as many minutes together (200) as all but one other Clipper combo (Reggie Jackson and Paul George – 252).
Kennard has shot 47% from 3-point range, Mann has filled in the gaps, and the Clips have outscored their opponents by 17.7 points per 100 possessions with the two on the floor together. That’s the second best on-court mark among 263 two-man combinations that have played at least 150 minutes total. And while it’s aided by the Clips’ 22-0, fourth quarter run (that turned a nine-point deficit into a 13-point lead) against Charlotte on Sunday, the Clips were already at their best with one or both of those guys on the floor.
The flip side is that Eric Bledsoe has an effective field goal percentage of 35.4%, the worst mark among 141 players with at least 75 field goal attempts. The Clippers have scored less than a point per possession with Bledsoe on the floor, even though 84% of his 234 minutes have come alongside Paul George.
This week: 16th | Last week: 23rd
A few days in Minnesota got the Clippers back on track, at least temporarily. Nicolas Batum has caught fire lately, shooting 60% from three-point range over L.A.’s last four games while providing sturdy defense on the other end of the floor.
This week: 19th | Last week: 20th
Are you buying the Clippers as salvageable on offense? You can’t really ignore how well Paul George is playing, but so far, his best help has been Nicolas Batum and Luke Kennard. That can’t be all that sustainable, so they’ll need guys like Reggie Jackson, Ivica Zubac and Terance Mann to be a lot more reliable. The only real offensive positive they have as a team is they don’t turn the ball over. Everything else needs a lot of work. If Jackson regains the magic he had last season in his contract year, we’ll see a huge uptick in the Clippers’ offense because it means their point guard is getting into the teeth of the defense a lot more.
Verdict: I do buy that they’re salvageable on offense. Some of these guys are too good not to start making shots, but they can’t just wait for George to save them every night. Also, I understand a week like this should result in them moving up higher, but it is real crowded in this top 20.