With all the pundits talking about the Miami win streak, the Celtics win streak, the (now snapped) New York Knicks win streak, it’s shocking that no one is talking about the winning streak (trend?) that is even more improbable than of all those: the Clippers two game road win streak. Especially when they beat the Bulls on the second night of the back to back.
Seriously, though, this Clippers team has shown significant signs of improvement. After that horrid 1-13 start, the Clippers are an almost respectable 6-8 in their last 14 games, even holding opponents under 100 in 9 of those 14 games. They are 24th and 22nd in Offensive and Defensive Efficiency in the league, respectively, for the season and considering where they have been at certain points in the year, they’ve owned the last spot in each at one point, that’s not terrible. Not terrible is improvement. I know that’s not exactly encouraging words to utter about a team as talented as the Clippers. But they are young and/or, for the most part, new additions, so time to gel is necessary. I think most, including myself, believed that the Clippers would be off to a better start, but at least now they are trending upwards. Take away a 2 or 3 turnovers combined in the Lakers game and the Memphis game and the Clippers are 5-2 in their last 7. And this is without Kaman.
Vinny deserves some level of commendation for this. No, it’s not even in the pat on the back territory yet, maybe just a fingergun from a distance, but at least he has the team improving. The opponent three point percentage is coming down (signs of better rotations on defense) and DeAndre Jordan hasn’t looked this useful at any point in his career. Yeah, he’s not going to turn into any sort of offensive force, but he’s at least an effective defender and rebounder that can catch some alley-oops or get a put back dunk on occasion. Even his blocks sometimes aren’t swatted out of bounds as much anymore.
There has been huge development for the team, but I am curious about the continuing disappearance of Al-Farouq Aminu, especially considering his outside shooting ability. He’s played sparingly in the last five games, culminating in his DNP-CD in Chicago, so that’s affected his stats, but even in the minutes he has played, he hasn’t been nearly as effective. I still think that Vinny should play Aminu more frequently as he still has the Clippers highest PER at small forward and is also the future. He struggles on defense, showing a little bit of promise defending one on one but looking more confused on screens, and he has very little ability to drive to the rim, but I think Aminu has earned more than the 10 minutes a game that he’s getting now. At least that’s the case on this team.
Tonight, the Wolves (6-22) are in town and the Clippers will try and extend their winning ways into their first legitimate win streak of the year.
Keys to the Game
– The Unicorn* v. Kevin Love. In the last matchup, Blake scored 26 points and secured 17 rebounds to Kevin Love’s 24 points and 14 rebounds. Blake is naturally more athletic, so he can eventually be a much better defender than Love, but for now he’s still a mediocre defender at best. Love has been on a tear this season, averaging the most rebounds per game (15.7) since Dennis Rodman’s ’96-’97 season and shooting the three ball extremely well (43 percent), all capped off by his 43 point, 17 rebound game against the Nuggets on Saturday (albeit in a loss). Slowing down Love will be critical in a Clipper victory.
– Michael Beasley. The lefty that goes left even when there’s nothing left. Did I mention he goes left? Still, Beasley was able to hit the game winning shot in the last matchup on top of scoring 33 points. Gomes, Aminu, and Butler will have their hands full, but if they play smart defense they can at least make Beasley’s night more difficult, maybe help the Clippers win.
– Point Guard. I’m still not exactly sure what is going on with the Clippers. Bledsoe starts in Detroit, the Clippers look good and win. Baron starts in Chicago and plays great and as the Clippers win. I didn’t see any reason for the Bledsoe demotion, but there are great reasons to keep starting Baron. No one feeds Blake as well as he does, and the alley-oop connection is one of the best in the league. Baron’s entry passing doesn’t sound that impressive until you think that when Baron isn’t in the game, Gordon handles the ball most of the time and, frankly, he’s a poor entry passer (caused some unsightly turnovers, namely the Ron Artest steal in the Lakers game). However, Baron needs to figure out how to co-exist with Gordon while getting the ball into Blake. In Baron’s two starts, Eric has played poorly. That needs to change if the Clippers are going to creep closer to .500.
*I agreed to ClipperBlogger Jordan Heimer that I would abide by his nickname for Blake. I can’t fight it, Blake is magical.