The Clippers’ dive in the recent power rankings suggest people around the league feel that way.
The Clippers had two wins — one good one — and two losses — one bad one — this week, but the real news came in the form of Paul George’s comments after the Denver game. George admitted that he is still in pain from the bone edema injury that cost him seven games earlier this season and that he isn’t sure if that will go away at any point this season.
The team hasn’t had a ton of time with its full rotation together, as Patrick Beverley and Serge Ibaka haven’t played in the last 12 and 11 games, respectively, but having the two stars healthy is of highest importance. Until it’s clear what George can contribute going forward, there are some questions about the Clippers in the most recent power rankings.
This week: 6th | Last week: 5th
The Clippers continued their inconsistent act by routing Milwaukee at the start of last week for their sixth straight win, only to lose the next two to Orlando and Denver. They looked tired after playing six games in nine days, and injuries to Paul George, Marcus Morris, Serge Ibaka and Patrick Beverley took a toll. But the Clippers recharged after two days off and Rajon Rondo made his debut in a 104-86 win over the Lakers. Beverley is nearing a return and the team is expected to sign DeMarcus Cousins to a 10-day contract to add depth. Head coach Tyronn Lue’s biggest challenge for the rest of the regular season is to get this team healthy and improve its continuity and chemistry as the playoffs lurk just around the corner.
This week: 7th | Last week: 3rd
The level that the Clippers’ offense was at — 126 points scored per 100 possessions, less than 11 turnovers per 100, 45% from 3-point range — over their six-game winning streak (capped by a 24-point win over the Bucks on Monday) certainly wasn’t sustainable, even if Paul George’s foot injury magically healed overnight. But they really came back to Earth in losses to the Magic and Nuggets last week, shooting 31% from 3-point range and totaling just 26 free throw attempts over the two games. The first part is some regression to the mean, while the second is a recurring issue.
The Clippers have clinched the season series with the Lakers, taking care of business against the shorthanded champs on Sunday. The offense disappeared last week, but they rank fifth defensively since the All-Star break, climbing into the top 10 on that end of the floor (for the full season) for the first time. Their reward is two more games against top-10 offenses (those of the Blazers and Suns), having last faced them both in Week 2.
With Serge Ibaka still on the shelf (though looking fabulous), the Clippers are going to give a 10-day contract to DeMarcus Cousins, who has shot poorly, both inside and out, this season. He could help on the glass, ranking second in defensive rebounding percentage among individuals, but the Clippers actually lead the league in defensive rebounding percentage over the three weeks since Ibaka last played and rank second (behind Chicago) for the season.
This week: 6th | Last week: 4th
The Clippers had an impressive win on Monday over the Bucks without Paul George, but followed that up with an inexcusable loss to the depleted Magic. George returned for a loss to the Nuggets, one of the more entertaining games of the season, and Sunday’s blowout win over the Lakers. Kawhi Leonard averaged 23.5 points, nine rebounds and 6.3 assists for the week, while Marcus Morris shot 56 percent from deep en route to 18.3 points per game.
This week: 7th | Last week: 6th
It was an odd week for the Clippers. They had a great win against the Bucks, which they blew open with a 33-19 fourth quarter. L.A. followed that big win with a terrible loss to the rebuilding Magic and then falling to the Nuggets before beating up on the injury-riddled Lakers. The losses are the reason for the Clippers’ drop in the rankings.
Terance Mann has been huge for the Clippers with Patrick Beverley having been out since March 11. He has averaged 11.3 points and shot 38.1 percent from three and 51.4 percent from the field since Beverley’s injury. Mann was even better last week, upping his scoring averaging to 12.0 while grabbing 5.8 rebounds and handing out 3.8 assists.
Rajon Rondo made his debut as a Clipper against the Lakers. He played just 13 minutes and had minimal impact on the game. On the transaction front, Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium reported that the Clippers plan to sign DeMarcus Cousins to a 10-day contract to help shore up their big man rotation with Serge Ibaka still out with a back injury.
This week: 6th | Last week: 2nd
The Paul George injury lingering in a terrible way. The LA Clippers will likely go only as far as their star wing tandem takes them. That’s essentially what happened last year in the series loss to the Denver Nuggets. The Clippers’ biggest stars couldn’t carry them when the team needed it. This season, they’ve made plenty of changes to try to Clipper-proof the final result for this team, whatever that ends up being. But with PG saying recently he has no pop on that right foot and he can’t bend his toe, we’re either going to see this injury tank the Clippers’ final result or George will find a way to adjust his game to rely on athleticism less and less. He’s been even better than we saw last season, but George missing time and looking like healing from this injury might not be an option this season just brings some disappointment and doubt.