While the Los Angeles Clippers got the win on Tuesday night, it has become clear that their weak interior defense needs to be addressed. Yes, the Clips did come out victorious over the Minnesota Timberwolves 120-116 in overtime, but how many games can you pull out win the opposing teams big men combine for 79 points and 33 rebounds.
The front office can no longer ignore the fact that what the Clippers are doing defensively will lead to an early round exit come playoff time. Kevin Love’s 45 points were the most a single opponent has totaled agains the Clippers this season. I can let Love’s performance slide for two reasons, firstly because he’s one of the best 10 players in the league and secondly because Blake Griffin went for 32 and 10 before fouling out. But, Nikola Pekovic 34 and 14 rebounds? That’s just unacceptable, especially to a player not known for his offensive prowess. That is on DeAndre Jordan.
For a player who is in his contract year, and his title is defensive anchor, he has not done himself any favors thus far in terms of proving that he is an 8 figure a year player. For the Clippers, the issue is that teams they are just plain better in have the ability to hang in with LA and win games because of the lack of front court strength. Losses to teams such as the Lakers, Orlando, Cleveland, Memphis, and Atlanta make you scratch your head, but when you look at the numbers the numbers the opposing bigs put up are staggering.
But not all is disheartening in Clipperland. LAC is currently riding a five game win streak in which the team has been firing on all cylinders offensively. Chris Paul has averaged a little over 20 points per contest in the Clippers 5 game winning streak while Griffin has averaged 24 a game during. Both averaging double doubles, (CP3 in dimes, Griffin in boards) and this is the production the Clippers need to be successful long term.
I have been Blake Griffin’s biggest critic when it comes to offensive game. Coming into this season, the general consensus around the Clippers was that Griffin jump shot was developing, but it would take a few years for him to be really effective. Well Griffin has made strides in that area and has developed into the Clippers number one scoring option and that midrange jumper has been a major component in Griffin’s offensive game. Griffin is now shooting a tad under 70% from the line, eight percentage points higher then his career average. He’s displayed a great understanding of what he needs to do in order to make this team successful offensively, and his individual awareness in realizing that his physical style will see him at the free throw line a lot. Griffin has become more efficient there and continues to improve that percentage as he was 10/11 from the line against the Wolves Sunday night.
Finally, Matt Barnes return to the lineup comes at a great time as the Clippers have begun to look very thin at the 2 and 3. JJ Reddick, Barnes, and Reggie Bullock have all seen time in street clothes as they have been recovering from their injuries. Willie Green and newly signed Stephen Jackson have been asked to step in, but now that Barnes is back their workload will drop significantly(thankfully). Jared Dudley hit a huge 3 against the Wolves but I am beginning to wonder if he is the right fit in terms of a starting small forward. Barnes is a better offensive option and plays with a fire few in the league have, I’d like to see him play at least 25 minutes a contest once he is back to full strength. Barnes was ejected against the Wolves, and the Clippers improved to (2-0) when he is given the boot. That’s more of a compliment then anything, because when he gets tossed the team tends to rally and put together a nice run and sunday was no different.
The Los Angeles Clippers face much uncertainty in the very near future as a lot of parts are still coming together for this team. While I have sincere doubts about this team and their ability to be a legitimate title contender, they are riding a five game win streak that has seen them win arguably the most entertaining contest of the year against the Wolves. On Christmas, they travel north to the bay to take on Golden State Warriors in what should be a fun west coast shootout, Merry Christmas everyone and enjoy the basketball.