The Los Angeles Clippers aren’t high on anybody’s list for NBA Finals favorites this season. But heck, the Lakers were the talk of the town and now look at ‘em! The Clippers have a lot to work on, but is it possible that they’ll improve enough to sneak into the postseason? Hey, anything could happen. They don’t have the most stellar record at 24-21, but they’re suddenly second in the Pacific Division, behind only the Warriors, and leading cross-town rivals the Lakers this season (what with Lebron’s groin long-term injury and all). This young Clippers team is still competitive.
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Sure the Clippers are on a five-game losing streak right now, but the good news is that that’s their longest losing streak so far this season and before that, they’d nabbed three wins in a row. They had their best month in November, but that’s not to say they won’t turn it around. As for that favorite west coast team, the Golden State Warriors, the Clippers had already won one and lost one to their division rivals this year.
Friday was their chance to take the lead in that division showdown in the City of Angels and the Warriors headed into the game on a six-game winning streak. But plagued by injuries, the Clippers lost 112-94. Hey, the Warriors did have DeMarcus Cousins back for that one…
The Clippers Roster
One of the guys who we deemed among this year’s best rookie players, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander runs point for the Clippers. Lately, however, it seems he’s hit a wall. While his teammates continue to support him through his struggles and Head Coach Doc Rivers says they haven’t lost faith, his numbers are definitely down. Of course, we have to remember the guy is only 20 years old. Still, he’s only averaging nine points per game for January, down from 12 in November.
The Clippers are lacking a true point guard, and Gilgeous-Alexander is their best bet. Anyone that can attack and play some offense is a welcome addition to the team. According to Doc Rivers, “He’s just struggling. He’s going to be a star, I have no doubt about that.” In Friday’s game against the Warriors, however, the rookie may have shown signs of turning things around, hitting a career-high 24 points.
His teammate Montrezl Harrell has his back too. Harrell says, “Every guy has hit that wall, I’ve hit it myself. It’s tough to get out of it, but we’re in the NBA… We bring him into good spirits to let him know he’s going to be okay.” Harrell, the Clippers’ 24-year-old power forward has also come back from a slump himself. At the beginning of this season, he wasn’t playing like himself, and now he’s a candidate for Most Improved Player. Harrell is averaging 17.6 points per game for the month of January, compared to 15.9 on the season. He’s also averaging close to 7 rebounds per game.
Shooting guard Lou Williams is dropping buckets too, with an average of 21 points per game in January and 18.7 for the season. The 32-year-old is helping out with close to 5 assists each game too. But Williams sat out with a sore hamstring against the Warriors on Friday. Not having your second-leading scorer in the game really hurts…
The Italian small forward Danilo Gallinari is the team’s second-leading scorer. He can dunk the ball, draw the foul, and put points on the board. He’s averaging 19.4 points and six rebounds per game this season. He too was out Friday, dealing with back spasms.
Tobias Harris compensated for his injured teammates with 28 points of his own. The Clipper’s leading scorer averages over 20 points and eight rebounds per game, but it was tough on the forward to handle the extra load himself. Harris has already turned down a contract extension from the Clippers and heads into free agency in the upcoming offseason.
Well, the Clippers don’t have a great defense. And they need a bigger offensive threat too. They’re inconsistent, but they can get aggressive when it matters… well, sometimes. They need a true center, a true point guard, and more points in the paint. They just need to get, well, better.
About that defense, Doc Rivers said, “It’s really tough sometimes to make defensive changes when you’re not doing what you’re supposed to do to begin with. You don’t know if your game plan is working or not because you’re not doing it. So we have to do something about that.”
Apparently though, before they step out on the court each game, Coach Rivers worries whether his team will be able to do one thing – rebounding. Another thing the Clippers are missing is truly great cornerstone franchise player. A star. A leader. They don’t really have that now and it seems everybody recognizes it. But hey, they’ve got heart.
One thing the Clippers are great at? Getting to the free throw line. They average the most free throws in the league with 23 per game. And don’t forget how strong they looked earlier in the season.
Sure, they’re young. They need a little work. They gotta work on their defense, rebounding, and confidence. But the Clippers are undoubtedly still in playoff contention. You might want to go ahead and get tickets to see them play!
How do you feel about the Los Angeles Clippers’ chances this season?