Most notably, Los Angeles’ well-tenured trio of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan have only played in 31 games together this year. But after so much uncertainly regarding their health, the Clippers have finally grasped their chance to finish the remaining 24 games of the season, which could be huge for a team who hasn’t met expectations.
As Los Angeles is currently fifth in the Western Conference with a 37-25 record, they still remain as a heavy competitor for the upcoming postseason. They went on a four-game winning streak prior to the All-Star break, including wins over New York, Charlotte and Utah. They capped off the break with a 99-84 victory at home against Atlanta.
But once all festivities ended, the Clippers weren’t given a warm welcome as they returned from the break. Two back-to-back losses against Golden State (at Oracle) and San Antonio, Los Angeles has lost four of their last-six games after the All-Star break. They looked solid in Saturday’s 101-91 road win over the Chicago Bulls, but neither of the Clippers big-three had much of a standout performance. Leading them, was multiple-time Sixth Man of the Year winner Jamal Crawford with a 25 point, 10-17 shooting night off the bench.
Los Angeles has plenty of work to do if they want to reposition themselves in the Western Conference. With Golden State losing superstar Kevin Durant for the next four weeks, the opportunity to climb the ladder for the Clippers to regain momentum begins now, as the season continues to wind down.
The focus mends towards Paul, who’s unquestionably Los Angeles’ most important player. Paul missed seven games due to a reoccurring hamstring injury, but it didn’t end there for the nine-time All-Star. Paul was ruled out for a minimum of six-to-eight weeks, after tearing a ligament in his thumb during a matchup against Oklahoma City. In his abscence, Clippers reserve guards Raymond Felton and Austin Rivers were able to receive more playing time. Paul ultimately came back earlier than expected, only missing a month before returning on February 24th.
Since his return, Paul is averaging 17.2 points, 4.4 rebounds and 8.4 assists, and is shooting nearly 54% from three.
The same can be said for forward Griffin, who had arthroscopic knee surgery on December 20th, forcing him to miss eighteen games. Since his return, he had a dominant four-game stretch with averages of 26.7 points, 9.3 rebounds, 5.9 assists, on 53% shooting from the field and 50% from three.
Just recently, Griffin exploded for a monster double-double of 43 points (15-26 FG, 3-4 3PT) and 10 rebounds over the Hornets.
Los Angeles went on a seven-game winning streak in Griffin’s abscence, but six of those games were at Staples Center. However, that streak includes solid victories over Miami, Memphis and Oklahoma City.
But other than Paul and Griffin, if there’s anyone who’s been able to consistently stay on the court for Los Angeles, is defensive rim-protecting center Jordan, who’s received a growing amount of votes for the NBA’s Defensive Player of The Year award. DeAndre is one of only three players (Crawford, Speights) on this Clippers team to appear in all 62 games. And of course, he’s kept himself in the conversation of the league’s best centers.
Jordan’s numbers have slipped in comparison to recent years, as his scoring, rebounding, and minutes are all down from the 2015-16 season. But as always, it never seems to be about the numbers for the 28 year-old big-man.
As they’ve done for consecutive years, time is (finally) seeming to run out for the Los Angeles Clippers. And even though it was rumored back in late-February that Paul verbally agreed to a massive $200 million extension, we’re unsure of the futures for both Paul and Griffin — who will both enter this summer as unrestricted free-agents. If Doc Rivers’ ball-club shall fail to surpass the Western Conference Semi-Finals once again, there’s a haunting possibility of vast changes in L.A.
After so many years of controversial tension between players, the front-office, or even other staff members in particular, will it all pay off for the Clippers?