According to FiveThirtyEight, the Clippers currently have the best chance of any team to win this year’s NBA title. They have a 29 percent chance of capturing the Larry O’Brien Trophy, while the next three teams — Brooklyn, Philadelphia, and Utah — are each at about 14 percent odds.
Those odds make sense! The Clippers have essentially passed every test thrown at them, when healthy, other than against Brooklyn. The only possible criticism that has been lobbed at this team is that the Clippers haven’t been healthy often enough, and thus it’s potentially unrealistic to think that they will have everyone available during the postseason. That’s fair, but it also applies to many other teams in the league, which is why the Clippers continue to ride high in this week’s power rankings.
This week: 5th | Last week: 5th
The Clippers saw their seven-game winning streak snapped in Philadelphia on Friday, but Kawhi Leonard did not play because of a foot injury. The Clippers enjoyed a few notable developments during that streak that could pay off come playoff time. Paul George rediscovered his revenge-season groove by scoring 30 or more in five straight games. Marcus Morris, Reggie Jackson, Ivica Zubac, Rajon Rondo, Terance Mann, Luke Kennard and Patrick Patterson all stepped up at moments with key players out. The most important things for coach Ty Lue’s team entering the final stretch is getting healthy (Leonard returned, but Patrick Beverley and Serge Ibaka remain out), developing chemistry and continuity — especially when back at full strength — and seeding as the Clips keep the pressure on Utah and Phoenix at the top of the West.
This week: 2nd | Last week: 5th
The Clippers are dealing with similar continuity issues as the ones they had last year. Prior to Sunday, they had both Paul George and Kawhi Leonard for only five of their previous 13 games. Serge Ibaka hasn’t played in more than a month, and Patrick Beverley is still a couple of weeks from his first post-hand-surgery evaluation. But the Clips have been taking care of business, tied with the Suns for the best record (14-3) over the last month and having beat Phoenix in their head-to-head meeting 11 days ago.
And the Clippers haven’t conceded anything. Playing without both George and Leonard in Detroit on Wednesday, they came back from 11 points down with less than five minutes to go and Reggie Jackson provided the late-game heroics against his former team. Playing without Leonard two nights later in Philly, they climbed out of an early, 14-point hole, had an efficient second half against the league’s second-ranked defense, and took a brief lead before scoring just two points (with four turnovers) on their next six possessions.
Clutch offense does remain an issue. The team with the most efficient offense in NBA history has scored just 107.3 points per 100 possessions (18th best) with the score within five points in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime. Among 96 players with at least 20 clutch field goal attempts, Leonard (34.3%) and George (32.6%) rank 86th and 88th in effective field goal percentage on those shots.
This week: 1st | Last week: 1st
The Clippers managed to go 3-1 this week despite being without Kawhi Leonard for three of the games and without Paul George for one of them. Marcus Morris and Reggie Jackson picked up the scoring slack, but it wasn’t enough to get past the 76ers in a close loss in Philly. George has looked tremendous this month as the Clippers have continued to put wins on the board without the services of Serge Ibaka and Patrick Beverley.
This week: 1st | Last week: 1st
Paul George has been outstanding for the Clippers during this stretch of games with 30 or more points in five straight games before scoring 23 points in 27 minutes during a blowout win over the Wolves. It has been more than just scoring, as he handed out nine assists against Detroit and eight against Indiana.
All of this success has come while the Clippers have been pretty banged up. Serge Ibaka has missed the past 16 games, Patrick Beverley has played only twice and Kawhi Leonard has missed five straight games. Even George missed a couple of games during this stretch.
The loss to the Sixers did not cost the Clippers the top spot in rankings considering they were without several rotation players and still nearly pulled out the win.
This week: 4th | Last week: 2nd
The LA Clippers have been in the same place all season long, essentially, even if their grade and ranking fluctuates a little bit. It’s impossible to judge them until we get to the playoffs, and that’s not totally satisfactory for everybody. The reason their grade is slightly lower than the previous quarter is because of the injuries. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George have to be healthy for the title contention, and they’ve battled some stuff keeping them from consistently being out there. We know the team is talented. We know they’re good. But we still don’t know if they’ll allow themselves to be good enough.
Goal for final stretch: Find a way to get Leonard and George on the court together as much as possible. Team is plus-15.8 points per 100 possessions this season with those two together.
Why are they ranked here? Almost had a perfect week, but they couldn’t beat Philadelphia. Helps that they have an easy schedule for the other games, but they really need to have Kawhi and PG healthy before they can stay higher with how competitive the top of the rankings are.