January Wins Don’t Win Rings
The week of 12/30 to 1/5 included four games, none of which were against “playoff locks.” The Clippers stayed in California for all four games. The first contest took place in Sacramento against the Kings, while the next three against the Pistons, Grizzlies, and Knicks took place in Staples Center. The four teams basically limped into their respective matchups against the Clippers with a combined 34.3% win percentage on the season. However, despite the disparity between the teams on paper, the Clippers did struggle. Only a team that is projected to go all the way can catch criticism after a 3-1 week.
Clippers Game Summaries
Clippers defeat the Kings 105-87
The Clippers started the week strong with a resounding 18-point victory against their divisional foe in Sacramento. Patrick Beverley and Lou Williams were out for illness and personal reasons respectively. Despite his near triple-double, Paul George and fellow star Kawhi shot a combined 14 for 46 from the field. Montrezl Harrell scored more than 10 points less than his season average of 19. Yet somehow, against all odds, the Clippers still managed to throttle the Kings with help from their tremendous depth. Players like Derrick Walton Jr, Moe Harkless, Landry Shamet, and Ivica Zubac did more than enough to keep the Clippers trucking along through this whole game.
Clippers defeat Pistons 126-112
In his first game back from attending the birth of his son, Syx, Lou Will (22) joined his running mate, Montrezl Harrell (23), in scoring 20 points off the bench. The Clippers put together a couple of massive performances in the 2nd and 3rd quarters, outscoring the Pistons 76 – 46. Though there was not much to dislike on the court in this one, matters off the court became worrisome as Paul George spent too much time over there. After tweaking a hamstring/back muscle in the first half, George saw no action in the second half. While it’s a huge plus that the team was able to keep the lead despite losing one of their stars, you have to be a little concern that this might become another nagging injury.
Clippers lose to Grizzlies 114-140
This is where things start getting ugly. The Clippers hobbled into this game down 2 of their best defenders in Paul George. Earlier in the week, they were able to overcome a lack of players and lack of performance from their stars. The contest against the Grizzlies was a different story entirely. After the Grizz opened the game with a 40-27 point first quarter, they never looked back. Despite staying competitive and with 10-12 points for most of the first half, they were unable to prevail as they allowed another devastating quarter. They were outscored 39-23 in the third, squashing any hopes of a comeback.
Clippers defeat the Knicks 135-132
If there ever was a win that doesn’t feel like a win, it was this one. As is customary, Kawhi sat out the second night of a back to back as the bottom-feeding Knicks came to town. However, although the teams sit at different ends of their respective conferences, the Clippers got off to a similar start as they did against the Grizzlies. The Knicks opened up the game with a 45-29 point first quarter, but the Clippers answered quickly with 47 in the second. After relying heavily on their depth for many games this season, it was the stars who pulled this one out. For the first time in franchise history, the Clippers had three players eclipse the 30 point mark in the same game. Harrell led the way with a career-high 34, and Lou Will and Paul George contributed 32 each. More impressively still was their combined 58.5% shooting. This was a huge plus as Paul George has struggled with his efficiency as of late.
Clippers Look to get Healthy during Weak Stretch
Over their next 10 games, the Clippers will play six games against teams with losing records: Warriors, Cavs, Magic(x2), Pelicans, and Hawks. The combined win percentage of these times totals 30.4%. The team has a much-needed four-day break before their next contest against the Warriors. This mini-break along with a lull in their strength of schedule could turn out to do wonders for this banged-up squad. The further the season progresses, the hungrier I get to see the team hit their stride at full strength.