It hasn’t been the most pleasant week for the LA Clippers. Let’s be clear: there’s no reason to hit the panic button or trade the entire roster. The team might’ve lost two games in a row for the first time all season, but both of those losses were without Paul George, who has been sidelined with a nebulous foot injury. However, beyond that excuse, some weaknesses were exposed—particularly in the closing minutes of close games. The Clippers’ three losses (Brooklyn, Boston and Sacramento) were all within four points or fewer. Sports sites across the internet agree that clutch execution is a missing element in the Clippers’ championship formula.
Previous Rank: No. 3
Mo Dakhil’s weekly update contained the biggest drop of any power ranking article for the Clippers. The five teams that jumped them were the Lakers, Bucks, Nets, Suns and Celtics, all of whom had better records than the Clippers within last week’s stretch of games. It’s harsh, but Dakhil cites the absent George and Beverley as the biggest reason why LA went on a 1-3 slide. He also believes that the Clippers’ poor clutch-time execution can be traced back to their lack of a true point guard, and that they essentially missed an opportunity by not outbidding the New York Knicks for Derrick Rose.
Previous rank: No. 3
Colin Ward-Henninger gave credit to Lou Williams, who filled the offensive hole left by Paul George on Sunday’s loss to Sacramento, noting that Williams will have to continue this scoring output for as long as George sits. He also pointed out that Leonard’s three-point shooting has finally begun to fall off, as he shot just 22% from distance this week. The two teams that jumped the Clippers in Ward-Henninger’s rankings were the Lakers and Bucks.
Previous Rank: No. 1
Ohm Youngmisuk also emphasized the importance of Paul George, along with the absent Patrick Beverley, who has now missed eight straight games. He believes that with these two starters out, Kawhi Leonard is having to work too hard to create for himself and others. The two teams that jumped the Clippers in ESPN’s rankings were the Lakers and the streaking Jazz, who have now won 15 of their last 16 games.
Previous Rank: No. 1
As he is wont to do, John Schuhmann dove deep into the numbers, analyzing the Clippers’ clutch performance (or lack thereof). He cites that LA ranks dead-last in clutch defense overall this season, and that the Nets, Celtics and Kings shot a combined 12-22 in the clutch minutes of the Clippers’ three losses this week.
Schuhmann also looked ahead to next week’s schedule, and noted that Paul George can pace himself when it comes to his injury recovery, as LA’s calendar looks to be a breeze. They’ll face off against the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Chicago Bulls and the Cleveland Cavaliers, all of whom have losing records. Perhaps if the Clippers can take care of business against these non-playoff teams and hopefully bring a starter or two back into the rotation, they can redeem themselves in the eyes of the national media.