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What’s Wrong With The Clippers?
Posted By Eric Pincus On April 9, 2013 @ 12:00 pm In Main Page,NBA | No Comments
The Los Angeles Clippers (51-26) are facing a difficult postseason if they can’t catch the Memphis Grizzlies (52-25) and/or Denver Nuggets (53-24) in the standings.
While division winners are guaranteed a top-four seed, home-court advantage is based on record. Last year the Clippers faced the same Grizzlies, winning on the road in seven games.
What happened? The Clippers dominated the NBA with 17-straight games to climb 19 games over as 2012 came to a close. After winning 80.1 percent of their first 31 games – the Clippers have split their last 16.
The biggest issue since their win streak has been health.
Injuries have slowed the team down with almost everyone from Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, Grant Hill, Chauncey Billups, Caron Butler, Jamal Crawford to Eric Bledsoe missing time.
In addition to stars Paul and Griffin, the Clippers’ greatest strength is their depth. Injuries haven’t been catastrophic but they’ve set LA back just enough to head into the final stretch of the season with a few too-many losses on the books.
Some of the defeats have been against non-playoff teams but since March 1, the Clippers have lost to teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder, Denver Nuggets, Memphis Grizzlies, San Antonio Spurs, Houston Rockets and Indiana Pacers.
The only “bad” loss was to the Sacramento Kings. The team also lost to the Mavericks while Dallas was making a playoff push (that has since seemingly stalled).
End-game stops have been a problem for the Clippers in recent games, falling to the Spurs on a late three-point play from Tim Duncan – or against the Mavericks in overtime. The team’s defense is “good” but not elite.
Los Angeles doesn’t manage the three-point line well. Opponents shoot 37.5 percent from behind the arc against Los Angeles, fourth-worst in the league.
The Clippers are holding teams to 44.5 percent from the field (10th overall) and 94.8 points a game. While scoring 101.1 a night, their point differential of 6.3 is fourth best in the league. No one forces more turnovers than the Clippers (16.4 a game) – leading the NBA with 9.7 steals a game.
Another major issue for the Clippers is free-throw shooting where they’re 26th in the league at 71.2 percent. Coach Vinny Del Negro doesn’t have enough trust in DeAndre Jordan to play him late in games because of his 39.1 percent mark at the line. Lamar Odom is shooting 50 percent.
Griffin has climbed significantly from last year’s 52.1 percent – all the way to 66.7 percent (a career mark).
Defensively the duo of Griffin and Jordan (with Odom rotating in off the bench) hasn’t been consistent. Ryan Hollins and Ronny Turiaf aren’t major contributors. The Clippers may not be tough enough defensively inside to win it all this year.
Part of the Clippers’ win-streak was spurred on by the incredible play of Matt Barnes off the bench. In December he averaged 12.9 points a game on 55.6 percent shooting from the field and 43.1 percent from behind the arc. In March he dipped 9.9 points at 40.2 percent and 33.3 percent, respectively.
With injuries reducing depth with a drop-off from Barnes, the Clippers have been good but not great for some time.
The Clippers completed their sweep of the Lakers on Sunday (109-95). They have five games remaining including the Minnesota Timberwolves and Portland Trail Blazers. LA will visit the New Orleans Hornets, Grizzlies and Kings.
Saturday’s game in Memphis could determine if the Clippers start the first round at Staples Center on the road.
If they’re truly ready for the postseason, they’ll get the win in Memphis to help secure home court advantage. LA has the tiebreaker over the Grizzlies but the Clippers still need to climb, with very few games left to play.
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