More and more it feels like they are just not there yet.
The Clippers are 6-4 in their last 10, and as it has been with the Clippers the second half of the season you can’t say that is bad. They keep scoring points, they keep having highlights, they keep getting wins and having moments where they look elite.
But those four losses are to San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Denver and on Wednesday night Memphis. Exactly the kind of the teams the Clippers need to beat in the playoffs. The Clipper defense has been poor, particularly in the post, their offense good but unable to cover for it.
The Clippers are no longer a building team selling hope for the future to their fans — the Clippers are a win now team. And it doesn’t feel like they can win enough right now. It did earlier in the season when they strung together 17 straight wins, but watch the Clippers now and that seems long ago.
“I like to think it’s possible to be a better team,” Paul said Wednesday, after the Clippers lost to Memphis. “We’ve got to get better defensively. Every night they [opponents] pretty much know what we’re going to do. We know what other teams are going to do. We’ve just got to get better, communicate, and be a little more aggressive on both ends.”
Teams have seen that Vinny Del Negro’s aggressive defensive scheme can mean big men like Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan are scrambling long distances. The result is an open paint opposing teams can attack. The Clippers as a whole seem to be thinking not reacting.
“When early on we were winning games and had that streak and even before that, the way we played defensively was aggressive,” Blake Griffin said. “We messed up at times, our rotations weren’t great at times, but I thought for the most part, we did a great job of forcing teams to figure out … our defense.”
They’ve got just a few more weeks to figure it out, then the games get serious and a lot Del Negro’s seat gets scorching.