On paper, the Clippers might be the second-best team in the West — a couple of elite stars with some quality role players around them, decent roster balance — but they haven’t played like it for long stretches of this season. Their offense has been inconsistent and their defense has never impressed…
Well, until the last week.
The Clippers are on a six-game winning streak and while there are a few reasons for that — including a stretch of games at home — the Clippers’ faltering defense has improved and that has been the real key. John Schuhmann broke down the numbers over at NBA.com.
Before the streak began, they ranked 23rd in defensive efficiency, allowing 104 points per 100 possessions…. Over the last six games though, the Clippers have allowed just 97 points per 100 possessions.
The biggest statistical key has been an increase in forcing turnovers. L.A. had forced just 15.2 turnovers per 100 possessions through their first 47 games, but have forced 17.7 over the last six, with 10 different guys on the roster picking up at least three steals during the streak. Chris Paul, of course, has led the way with 13 steals. But Eric Bledsoe has six in just 80 minutes during the streak.
The forced turnovers have produced an increase in transition opportunities, which is where the Clippers are at their best.
As with all things, it’s not jut that simple. The Clippers have done other things right, too, such as the chemistry that is really building on the Chris Paul/Blake Griffin pick-and-roll.
But if the Clippers are going to carry this success over to the playoffs (and next season, and beyond) it will be about the defense. This can’t be a six-game statistical aberration, it has to be the norm. We’ll see if they can keep it up on the road and against tests like the Lakers.
But for now, the Clippers are winning with defense. And that makes them even more dangerous.