The Los Angeles Clippers are on a roll. They have ripped ten straight wins and continue to win despite Blake Griffin’s absence. Their ability to win games with this gaping hole in their offense comes from an improved bench presence. It is also necessary to mention the fact that none of the opposing teams the Clippers have encountered in that stretch hold a positive record. On Wednesday, Jan. 13, they faced their most difficult opponent in almost a month, when they defeated the perennially good Miami Heat 104-90.
But before looking forward, let’s look backward at a great streak and the best one the Clippers have had this season (their franchise record is 17 straight wins in 2012-2013). During that stretch, not only have they lacked their leading point scorer, Blake Griffin, who averages 23 points per game, but they were also on the road for 6 out of those 10 wins. This streak must be a huge confidence boost in addition to a terrific demonstration of talent and athleticism by the rest of the team. For a startling example, Austin Rivers, the Jar Jar Binks of the basketball world, has averaged nearly 14 points a game over the last two weeks. While he did make a monumentally asinine error in the last few seconds of regulation during the Jan. 10 game against New Orleans, it is forgivable because the Clippers did persevere during OT in order to clinch the win.
Other members of the team have also stepped up their production in order to fill Griffin’s hole. But how can a team lose when three members of their bench score double digits? Pro-tip: They don’t. This is especially true if one of those members off the bench is veteran scorer Jamal Crawford, who is currently 95th on the all-time NBA scorer’s list. Crawford, in addition to being 35 years old, still drops mad buckets and is averaging nearly 15 points a game over the last two weeks.
As a Clippers’ fan, it is frustrating to see Doc Rivers continue to neglect to give minutes to both Lance Stephenson and Josh Smith but, in the face of Griffin’s injury, he has changed some of his bench. To the surprise of Clippers’ fans everywhere, both backup center Cole Aldrich and backup point guard Pablo Prigioni have begun to receive minutes. To the glee of Clippers’ fans everywhere both players have played well enough to earn what minutes they receive. In addition to the improvement in the Clippers’ bench, one of my former complaints, the poor performance of DeAndre Jordan at the free-throw line has seen dramatic improvement. Over this ten game winning streak, Jordan has shot remarkably better at the line, all of which has helped the Clippers clinch close games against both New Orleans and Charlotte. In addition to his improved free-throw shooting, Jordan’s rebounding has improved and he has averaged three more boards a game in the last few weeks than his season average.
When you add together a better shooting percentage and more efficient role-players you unsurprisingly win games. Despite a difficult start, and injuries, the Clippers are playing better ball than they have been all season, all of which makes me wonder whether Doc Rivers is right to ignore criticism of his team or should listen to what others think of his coaching techniques. The only way to answer that question will come when the Clippers finally face a good team (the Miami Heat) on Wednesday.
All stats and numbers come from statmuse.com.