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.
As if Golden State was not already a prohibitive favorite Saturday night.
DeMarcus Cousins, who has missed the last two games for Sacramento with a strained back and that will continue Saturday. Our old friend Bill Herenda tweeted it first.
Not only are the Kings 1-6 without Cousins, but they were also on their way to beating Charlotte Monday until Cousins had to leave the game.
Golden State will likely be without Harrison Barnes in this game after spraining his ankle in the last game. Expect Andre Iguodala to get the start, or if interim coach Luke Walton doesn’t want to mess with the bench rotation he could go with Brandon Rush.
Watching Anthony Davis fall to the court clutching his knee, not being able to put any pressure on his leg as he was helped to the locker room, it was frightening Friday night in Los Angeles.
It turns out it’s not that bad. After the game the injury was described as a “knee contusion” and not the serious damage that was feared. Saturday the Pelicans said Davis was good to go.
Whew. Nobody wants to see Davis miss time.
The Pelicans had won three in a row until they ran into the Clippers Friday night. Davis has played better of late — the New Orleans defense is 7.2 points per 100 better when he is on the court — and New Orleans has gotten better point guard play out of Ish Smith.
That is just cruel.
An on-fire Warriors team dropped 44 on the Suns in the first quarter Saturday, and Curry had 19 of those points going 5-of-6 from three. The Suns’ had no defender who could begin to hang with him. Certainly not Ronnie Price, who came in off the bench and got abused for his efforts.
Curry finished with 41 points, never had to set foot on the court in the fourth quarter, and the Warriors improved to 17-0 on the season. Just another day at the office for them.
We tend to think of record streaks having to be in one season, not broken up across two.
But if you can suspend that, the Philadelphia 76ers are now the owners of the longest losing streak in NBA — and major professional sports — history.
With their tough two-points loss to Houston Friday night, the Sixers have lost 27 in a row. The Sixers dropped their final 10 last season and with the loss to the Rockets are 0-17 to start this one.
That bests the 26-game losing streaks of the 2010-11 Cleveland Cavaliers and these same Sixers from 2013-14. Looking across sports, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of 1976-1977 also lost 26 in a row, which when you consider the length of the NFL season is pretty embarrassing.
The Sixers struggles are born from a plan by GM Sam Hinkie (and approved by ownership) to get better long-term by being bad now and hoarding draft picks. It’s a strategy that can work if Hinkie nails the draft picks (the book is out on how Hinkie is doing on that front). And they are committed to it through at least this draft.
But don’t think for a second the players and coach are trying to lose.
If you have watched the Sixers play their last few games you know the players are trying hard to get that victory (and almost have a couple of times). The effort is there, they are just outmatched and lack the kind of presence at the end of games to execute under pressure (something a couple of quality, regularly-playing veterans might help, but that’s another discussion). They have the point differential of a team that should have a couple wins; they just haven’t been fortunate. It happens. Go ahead and blame management if you think this plan is an abomination. Just don’t question the desire or effort of the players or coaches, that is not in doubt.
The Sixers play at the Grizzlies Sunday, then have maybe their best shot at a win for a while when they host the Lakers on Tuesday.