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The Clippers are once again on an upswing

Paul George was the player of the week, and the Clippers are the team to beat.

Phoenix Suns v Los Angeles Clippers

The Clippers used an undefeated week — despite three different starting lineups — to vault back up in the power rankings. Unfortunately, the group that earned the two most impressive of those wins won’t be available probably for the rest of the regular season due to Patrick Beverley’s hand injury.

The first choice group for the final 17 games will therefore be Reggie Jackson, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Marcus Morris Sr., and Ivica Zubac, which is the team’s second-most used lineup to date. They’ve played 121 minutes together and have been outstanding on offense while struggling a bit on the other end, likely missing Beverley’s presence at the point of attack, for an overall net rating of plus-8.0, via NBA.com.

Can that group keep the Clippers rolling going forward? Here’s what the power rankings have to say.


ESPN

This week: 5th | Last week: 6th

The Clippers beat Portland, Phoenix, Houston and Detroit this past week, but they still experienced loss when Patrick Beverley fractured the fourth metacarpal in his left hand. While the Clippers kept pace with the Suns behind Utah in the West, their injuries continue to interrupt their ability to establish chemistry and cohesion. Beverley will be out at least three weeks, and Reggie Jackson and Rajon Rondo are the team’s point guards moving forward until he returns. Serge Ibaka (back) will not travel with the team on its three-game trip this week.

NBA.com

This week: 5th | Last week: 7th

Just when it looked like Paul George’s foot injury was affecting the Clippers’ offense as a whole, George and the LA offense have roared back to life. The Clippers now have the most efficient offense in NBA history and their five-game winning streak (though it began with a pretty ugly win over the Lakers) has been their most efficient stretch of the season (125.9 points scored per 100 possessions). George has averaged 33.7 points on 56% shooting as he’s played three of the last four games, having found his touch from beyond the arc (14-for-23) and some explosion in the paint. Kawhi Leonard had the Clippers’ best dunk of the season when he elevated over Deandre Ayton on Thursday, and he was topped just three days later.

The Clips have lost Patrick Beverley to a fractured hand, but have outscored their opponents by 57 points (41 per 100 possessions) in Rajon Rondo’s 68 minutes thus far. Bench minutes were huge as they beat the Blazers and Suns last week, giving them the best record (8-3) in games played between the top six teams in the West. They’ve won 11 of their last 13 overall and, with their nine-game homestand in the books, play 11 of their final 17 games on the road.

CBS Sports

This week: 1st | Last week: 6th

The Clippers won all four games this week, making it five in a row overall, and did so with an inconsistent rotation due to injuries and rest. They stepped on the gas late in the win over Phoenix, and they never trailed in an impressive win over the Blazers last Tuesday. Paul George is on fire, averaging 33.7 points and 5.7 assists on 61 percent 3-point shooting in three games this week, while Kawhi Leonard put up 29 points, 7.3 rebounds and 6.7 assists per game on 41 percent shooting. The Clippers lost Patrick Beverley for at least a month with a broken hand, but that should give Rajon Rondo more opportunity to get acclimated to his new surroundings.

Bleacher Report

This week: 1st | Last week: 7th

The Clippers have quietly strung together a five-game winning streak, winning by an average of 13.8 points while shooting 48.5 percent from three and scoring 121.4 points per game. Their game against the Pistons was not pretty, but with Kawhi Leonard sitting out for rest, the Clippers were able to hold for the win.

The Clippers’ top players have lived up to their star billing. Paul George led the way this week, scoring 29.3 points and shooting an eye-popping 59.3 percent from three. Leonard scored 26.5 points while grabbing eight boards and handing out seven assists.

LA’s win over Phoenix carries major weight as it gave the Clippers the season series and with it the tiebreaker should that come into play at the end of the regular season.

The schedule gets challenging for LA, though, as seven of the Clippers’ next 10 games will be on the road.

The Athletic

This week: 2nd | Last week: 6th

Good lineup: Patrick Beverley | Paul George | Kawhi Leonard | Nicolas Batum | Serge Ibaka

Stats: 118.3 offensive rating | 101.7 defensive rating | +16.7 net rating | 264 minutes played | Most used lineup

Why it’s important: While I’d probably like to see Marcus Morris in the lineup in place of Patrick Beverley or Nicolas Batum when it gets to crunch time, this is one of the most balanced attacks the Clippers can throw at opponents. The combination of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George has proven to often be too much. Serge Ibaka gives them a stretch-big without sacrificing defense. Beverley plays the nuisance and Batum brings a lot of basketball IQ to the next pass when it’s needed. This lineup has overperformed for the Clippers all season.

Bad lineup: Patrick Beverley | Luke Kennard | Kawhi Leonard | Nicolas Batum | Serge Ibaka

Stats: 101.5 offensive rating | 110.9 defensive rating | -9.5 net rating | 33 minutes played | 11th most used lineup

Question that arises: Can the Clippers survive without their two stars on the floor? Remove Paul George from the lineup and replace him with capable shooter/playmaker Luke Kennard and it’s still a disaster for the Clippers this season. It has a small sample size, so we won’t say this is definitely a bad lineup for them, but the Clippers will need to find consistent success when it comes to staggering the minutes of Leonard or George without the other.