After dropping three straight games to the Western Conference’s elite, the Los Angeles Clippers have rolled on despite missing the star of the show, Blake Griffin, due to an injury. After losing by a single point to the Oklahoma City Thunder the Clippers have won six straight, five without any contribution from Griffin, their main reliable source of offense. This is their longest winning streak since opening the season with four straight and comes as a surprise since they are missing such a key to their offensive capabilities.
Nearly all of these wins come against teams with sub-.500 records (Charlotte being the lone exception with a .515 record). But the Clippers’ Blake-less offense has also stepped up their game and offered a (although probably unsustainable) solution to the hole in their squad. To fill this hole Doc Rivers has been giving minutes to back up center Cole Aldrich, who has averaged about 15 minutes per game since Dec. 21 after Doc gave him inexplicable DNP’s for the previous month, and has shown himself to be a valuable asset that was previously underutilized. As a backup rebounder Cole has proven effective when compounded by veteran point-guard Pablo Prigioni who was also neglected by Doc Rivers’ ineffective coaching until recently. These additions (I use the word “addition” despite the fact they were always available to be played, only ignored as options by Doc in favor of his son and Paul Pierce) to the Clippers’ bench has created depth on both defense and offense where none existed previously.
In addition to these welcome changes in Doc Rivers’ lineups, since Blake Griffin’s injury, the Clippers’ starting guards J.J. Redick and Chris Paul have contributed immensely needed buckets. Redick, who has had a mediocre season thus far, posted three 25-point games in a week and tremendous shooting over 50% in that period. Chris Paul, despite an uncharacteristically poor performance against the New Orleans Pelicans on Dec. 31, has been consistently creating opportunities for the rest of his teammates to score and has shown himself to be one of the league’s premier point-guards. Paul has averaged over nine assists per game this season, which in addition to his 18 points per game, accounts for nearly a third of all the Clippers’ offense so far, demonstrating his worth and efficiency on a team which tends to lack both.
Since it is unlikely that the bench and starting squad can continue to perform at such a pace, the Clippers desperately need Griffin to return sooner rather than later. However, due to the nature of his quadricep injury, Griffin will probably be sidelined for the next several weeks which will see the Clippers matched up against much stronger teams than Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and New Orleans. In order to continue to thrive against stronger teams, the shooting efficiency and team work exhibited in the last six games needs to continue once Griffin returns. They are currently in fourth place in the West and have an upward battle if they are going to continue to excel against elite teams like Golden State and San Antonio, let alone poorly performing teams like Houston.