It’s nice to be home! The LA Clippers entered the All-Star break with a 4-game winning streak after sweeping the season series with the Atlanta Hawks. In a season that has been incredibly streaky, mostly due to physical setbacks by PG Chris Paul and PF Blake Griffin, the Clippers have mostly traded long losing streaks with streaks like the one the team is on now. The result has been the worst record through 56 games in the last five seasons at 35-21, but that is still good enough for 4th place in the Western Conference despite Paul and Griffin missing 20 games each. The Clippers are 8-12 without Paul and 11-9 without Griffin this season.
Top Performer: Backup PG Raymond Felton hasn’t had the ball in his hands much this season, but he had an efficient 11 points (5-of-6 FGs) with 4 rebounds, 3 assists, and 4 steals off the bench. Felton’s steals matched a season-high, and were more than he had in the previous 8 games combined. Felton also made another three, and he is shooting 45.0 percent from deep this month.
X-Factor: In the nine games since Griffin came back prior to Atlanta’s visit, the Clippers were dead last in opponent turnover percentage. And then the Hawks showed up at STAPLES Center Wednesday night and turned the ball over 23 times, with the Clippers getting a season-high 18 steals! In addition to Felton, the Clippers had four other players with multiple steals: backup PF Wesley Johnson (4), PG Austin Rivers (3), All-Star C DeAndre Jordan (2), and backup SG Jamal Crawford (2). LA had 18 steals combined in the previous three games. LA outscored the Hawks 22-10 in points off turnovers.
Major Moment: The Hawks had a 27-25 lead with 11:02 left in the 2nd quarter. It would be the final lead the Hawks had for the game, as LA went on a 29-13 run over the last 11 minutes of the 1st half. Nine different Clippers made at least one FG during this stretch, with the Clippers making 12-of-21 FGs (57.1 percent) during the run. Felton had 7 of his points and 3 of his steals during this stretch, while the Hawks had more turnovers (7) than baskets (4-of-16 FGs, 25.0 percent) during the run that torpedoed their effort by halftime Wednesday night.
Key Lineups: It was a bad night for the Hawks starting lineup of PG Dennis Schroder, SG Kent Bazemore, SF Tim Hardaway Jr., PF Paul Millsap, and C Dwight Howard. That group was outscored 26-17 in 12 minutes together, compiling a -37.3 net rating while having a 2:5 assist-turnover ratio.
LA’s best lineup was when Crawford was in at SF with the starters in place of Luc Mbah a Moute. That unit outscored the Hawks 19-8 in 6 minutes, compiling a 88.0 net rating while holding Atlanta to 30.0 percent from the field.
The Definition: Well, we’re at the All-Star break, but this may be my last post at ClipperBlog. It’s been a great few seasons, and hopefully we can keep it going! Thank you, and stay tuned!