The Clippers posted their best win of the season this past week, laying waste to the Phoenix Suns despite missing much of their frontcourt rotation, But the Clippers then ended the week on a sour note with one of their more puzzling performances against the Thunder.
It’s hard to know what to expect from this team on any given day. But their highs still give hope for a contending team at full strength, as evidenced by their bump in the power rankings this week.
Note: These rankings were compiled before the loss to San Antonio Monday.
This week: 10th | Last week: 12th
The week started with the Clippers winning their fourth straight and enjoying a blowout victory over the Suns without Paul George, but it ended with former Clippers guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander drilling a buzzer-beating 3 to stun them in Oklahoma City and hand them a second straight loss. The Clippers need to get healthy. George has missed five straight with an elbow injury, but he could be nearing a return. The Clippers lost Marcus Morris Sr., who had just been warming up after returning from a knee injury, to health and safety protocols. Reggie Jackson has been playing some heavy minutes and is banged up, as well.
This week: 10th | Last week: 11th
Overall, the Clippers have been better offensively in their six games without Paul George (110.9 points scored per 100 possessions) than they’ve been in their 24 games with him (105.2). A big part of that has been 3-point shooting (40.2% vs. 35.4%), with Luke Kennard (27-for-47) and Eric Bledsoe (10-for-20) having combined to shoot 55% from beyond the arc over the six games. They were 4-for-7 as the Clippers beat the Suns on Monday.
But the defense isn’t the same without George. The Clippers couldn’t stop Utah’s No. 1 offense on Wednesday, and they got crushed on the glass in Oklahoma City before Justise Winslow (who got his first start of the season) opened the door for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s game-winner, missing the two free throws that could have sealed a win.
The improved 3-point shooting is critical, because the Clippers remain dependent on jump shots. They rank 27th in fast-break-point differential (-1.9 per game), 30th in points-in-the-paint differential (-6.2 per game), and 29th in second-chance-point differential (-3.8 per game). Their 9.6 second-chance points per game would be the lowest mark in the last 11 seasons.
This week: 10th | Last week:11th
The Clippers’ defense has been among the NBA’s best this year, currently placing No. 4 in defensive rating. Their offense, however, has been among the league’s worst, nearing the Christmas holiday at No. 25. Still, Los Angeles finds itself two games above .500 and has been among the more consistent teams in the Western Conference.
This week: 14th | Last week: 12th
So far this season, Reggie Jackson and Luke Kennard are leading the LA Clippers in minutes played. Jackson, Kennard and Eric Bledsoe are second, third and fourth in shots attempted behind Paul George. I’m still blown away by how well this team has done considering the lack of available core rotation guys, even extending beyond Kawhi Leonard’s absence. PG13’s efficiency fell off as he battled some elbow trouble, and hopefully, time away from the court will bring him back to the lethal production he had to start the season. But Ty Lue continues to impress, and I don’t think people should chalk up their success to anything but him being the main reason. He’s coaching as well as anybody. Even them being just two games over .500 is highly impressive.