The Clippers have won 10 of their last 13 games, yet they haven’t gotten the respect from all quarters they believe they deserve as contenders. Part of it is that their defense hasn’t been very consistent — they picked up a dramatic win over Portland this week because Chris Paul dropped 41 and they just outscored the Blazers, not because they could get stops.
The other issue is depth. As in they don’t have any.
But they could pick up a little help soon, as Jamal Crawford — last season’s Sixth Man of the Year — has returned to practice following his calf injury. From Arash Markazi of ESPN.
Jamal Crawford looked good in practice today. No official return date set but sources said Tuesday is still the tentative plan.
Robinson isn’t a playoff answer, but he’s better than their other options (Austin Rivers, for one).
The real challenge for the Clippers lack of depth in the playoffs isn’t minutes as much — you can play Chris Paul and Blake Griffin more — but the lack of versatility. All the weapons that Golden State or San Antonio have is it means they can attack you in a variety of ways, the Clippers are more predictable. That can be trouble in a seven-game series.
In the West, the little things will matter, and getting Crawford back is more than a little thing for the Clippers.
Report: Matt Barnes, before joining Clippers, adamantly felt Blake Griffin wouldn’t back up his posturing
So before agreeing to acquire the nine-year veteran, Barnes said, the Clippers checked with Griffin to receive his blessing. Barnes said he also spoke with Griffin on Thursday.
“I just kind of explained to him that it was no disrespect to him or his game,” Barnes said. “I think he’s one of the best players in the league and arguably the most athletic player. I play basketball hard-nosed and if you’re not on my team, during that 48 minutes we’re enemies. He appreciated it and understood where I was coming from.”
Apparently, though, Barnes’ problem with Griffin ran deeper than just not liking his flopping.
You just see it over and over where Blake decides to sort of get that look on his face where he’s Mr. Tough Guy, and he steps toward guys and doesn’t end up doing anything.
To a lot of NBA guys, that is an ultimate crime, that is being a faux tough guy. Being a fake tough guy is a real minus in this league.
And I’ve had people tell me they would rather see Blake step to a guy and follow through and get in a full-fledged fight and change the perception that he will do something if you keep knocking him around. Obviously, he gets fouled all the time and gets fouled hard.
But in this league, right or wrong, there’s a perception that you should stand up for yourself and do something. If you’re not going to, then don’t act like you’re going to.
And a lot of people look at that and see – Matt Barnes, even, Blake’s teammate, when he was with the Lakers, felt adamant about this. This is a guy who won’t back it up – and in the NBA, that’s a crime.
That adds background to this 2013 incident, when Griffin and Serge Ibaka got into it and Barnes leapt to Griffin’s defense:
BOSTON – George Hill doesn’t shy form describing how last season went for him.
“I wasn’t happy,” the Pacers point guard said. “I felt like, to play the way I want to play, I’ve got to be happy. The way things finished off last year and me not feeling like I was that involved on the offensive end and things like that, I wasn’t happy.”
He also didn’t shy away from doing something about it – and the results have been a quietly spectacular season that has the Pacers still in the playoff race despite losing Paul George (to injury) and Lance Stephenson (to the Hornets).
Hill began his offseason regimen the day after Indiana eliminated in the Eastern Conference finals, according to Pacers coach Frank Vogel. Hill said he was often in the gym three times per day.
“We had to ask him to back off several times,” Vogel said.
Said Hill: “I didn’t ease up. I kept going. He can say that all he wants, but I’m the player. I wanted to get better. So, there was no easing up for me.
“I’m a person that, once I’ve got my mind made up, there’s no knocking me off that course.”
Hill said he was intent on “just getting back to who I was in college… get back to being myself.”
In college, Hill was a big fish in a small pond.
He starred at IUPUI (Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis) from nearly the moment he arrived as the reigning Indiana high school scoring leader. Unlike Damian Lillard, who went to Weber State because bigger programs overlooked him, Hill held scholarship offers from Indiana and Temple and was courted by Florida.
But Hill, stating the loyalty Edison taught him, refused to transfer. Besides, Hill believed the NBA would find talent anywhere – and he believed he had plenty of talent.
So does Vogel, even when there were limits on Hill’s ability to show it.
Hill, whose usage percentage had never cracked 20, saw it plummet to 14.8 last season – tied for lowest among starting point guards:
“I knew that when he was getting criticism last year for not being the point guard that everyone thought that this team needed, I thought it was unfair, that he was capable of carrying a much bigger load,” Vogel said. “And he’s proven that this year.”
Hill’s usage rate has soared to 24.7.
All along, he planned to carry a bigger load, but without George and Stephenson, Indiana really needs it.
Hill is averaging career highs in points (16.4) and rebounds (3.9) per game, and his 4.7 assists per game are within a hundredth of his career high. Yet, he’s playing just 28.4 minutes per game, his fewest since becoming Indiana’s starter.
As a result, Hill is posting career highs in points (blue), assists (gold) and rebounds (gray) per 36 minutes:
Unfortunately for the Pacers, despite Hill’s breakout season, they still might miss the playoffs. They’re two games out and 11th in the Eastern Conference entering tonight’s pivotal contest with the 10th-place Hornets.
Don’t blame Hill for Indiana’s perilous position, though.
Hill missed the first 28 and 39 of the first 44 games of the season due to injury. Before he got healthy, the Pacers looked cooked. But he – along with David West, who also began the season injured – has rejuvenated them.
They’re 20-16 with Hill and 12-27 without him. They outscore opponents by 4.6 points per 100 possessions when he’s on the court (equivalent of fifth in the league) and get outscored by 3.4 per 100 when he’s not (24th).
The biggest gains have come offensively, where Indiana had really fizzled.
Hill runs more pick-and-rolls than before, serving as the defined playmaker he wasn’t last season. And he has hit severalhugeshots:
At this point, it’s probably worth taking a step back and remembering Hill was hardly a bad player before this season – even in a limited role. He defended well, hit spot-up shots, kept the ball moving and, perhaps most importantly, kept turnovers down. He started for a team that won 105 games and four playoff series the previous two years.
LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, James Harden, Stephen Curry, Blake Griffin and Mike Conley were the only players to post more win shares both of the last two seasons.
He has taken that challenge head on, and he’s succeeding. Not only has Hill increased his load, his efficiency has remained in tact. He’s shooting a career-high 48.3 percent from the field, and his 3-point percentage is a solid 36.5. Despite having he ball in his hands more, his turnover rate remains low.
Hill, because he fit his role so well, posted All-Star-caliber numbers in certain advanced stats prior. Now, his numbers are up and he looks like an All-Star.
Beyond lifting Indiana into the postseason, other challenges loom.
The Clippers have lamented their lack of a home-court advantage since very early in the season.
And with the playoffs a little more than two weeks away, it appears as though nothing has changed.
Blake Griffin joined Chris Paul in going on the record publicly to state the obvious, which is that fans from other teams tend to invade the Staples Center and make their presence felt during Clippers home games against the league’s top teams.
“Home-court advantage is just not there for us,” Griffin said after the game. “If that’s how it feels in the playoffs, it’s not looking good.”
Warriors fans made Staples Center sound more like Oracle Arena on Tuesday night. They loudly cheered every made basket by Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, and chanted “M-V-P” when Curry was at the free throw line, causing several Clippers players to look up into the stands and shake their heads.
“I don’t know what we could do, but it would be great if it wasn’t that way,” said Griffin, who had 40 points in the loss. “It’s kind of like when we play the Lakers. I don’t know, maybe worse. It’s one of those things where it would be great if it wasn’t like that.”
Los Angeles remains a Lakers town, despite the current level of disparity between the two teams. That’s part of the problem with sharing a city and an arena with one of the league’s most storied franchises, and unfortunately for the Clippers, they’re going to have to overcome this obstacle and find a way to earn success in spite of it for many, many years in order to gain a passionate fan base all their own.
Blake Griffin dropped 40 on Golden State in loss (VIDEO)
Blake Griffin was the reason the Clippers led Golden State early and had a chance to win in the end — he was the best player on the floor Tuesday night.
Taking advantage of the face Draymond Green was out (Green give Griffin issues), Griffin dropped 40 points on 16-of-25 shooting, plus had 12 boards. Griffin had 12 of his points in the first quarter, when the Clippers took their lead. His 16 in the third quarter kept the Warriors from running away.
Down the stretch, I wouldn’t say he looked worn down, rather that he was just tired enough that he couldn’t sustain his earlier level of play and no one else on his team stepped up. The Clippers needed this win, and the Warriors got it. But that’s not on Griffin, it’s not even close without him.