With players like Chris Paul and Blake Griffin in the lineup, it was quite clear the Los Angeles Clippers weren’t going to fail this season because of their offense. On the other hand, the x-factor which was going to determine how far they’ll make it into the postseason was their ability to remain consistent on defense, something that hasn’t really happened over the last couple of months.
There’s a reason the Clippers have gone only 7-8 as they stumble towards the playoffs. While their offensive efficiency of 107.1 points per 100 possessions is fifth in the NBA, their defense is allowing 105.7 points per 100 possessions since the All-Star break. The only other team with a worse defensive efficiency (among playoff teams) during that timespan is the Milwaukee Bucks, the only sub .500 team in that group of 16. When the sample narrows down to March 1 and later, the Clippers are doing even worse.
While earlier this season and especially during their 17-game winning streak in December (24-20 ever since) the Clippers were one of the best defensive teams in the NBA because of the immense pressure they put on ball handlers, creating the best turnover numbers in the NBA, they seem to have fallen off drastically since, with no clear plan on how to stop opposing teams, and doing a bit of everything, but not doing anything too well.
Their shooter trapping by using DeAndre Jordan has no backup near the hoop to protect against the roll man or a weakside cutter; No one on the team seems to defend the pick n’ roll very well on consistent level, and it seems to be more of a fluctuating energy factor than actually paying attention to details and trying to improve. Maybe it is a coaching thing, something Vinny Del Negro critics love to point out. Maybe these are just players being lazy and slacking off on execution, which usually happens with the teams that aren’t going too far each season.
But the Clippers see themselves as outsiders with a shot to win the West, or at least they seemed that way during the first half of the season. But the ups & downs in their efforts on D, when it comes to their big men like DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin or their bench players like Lamar Odom and Matt Barnes, it seems the Clippers are simply not cut out mentally to give what it takes to be a real force in the West, hoping that Chris Paul provides the offense, defense and inspiration their abilities, wills and the coaching they’re getting aren’t providing.