The Los Angeles Clippers and Oklahoma City Thunder have been playing one of the most exciting playoffs series that you'll ever see. Each team is loaded with young superstars who are trying to fight their way to an NBA championship. Both Chris Paul and Blake Griffin have been very good throughout this series, and you would expect big games from DeAndre Jordan after what he did during the regular season and first round series against the Golden State Warriors. However, he's struggled overall, and has even been a non-factor at times.
This is a little surprising since Jordan was one of the real revelations this year during the regular season. His nERD ranking this season was at 11.0, which gave the Clippers three players within the top 10 in nERD this season - the other two were, of course, Paul and Griffin. No other NBA team even had two players in the top 10.
Jordan’s ranking was supported, obviously, by his regular season numbers. He averaged 10.4 points, 13.6 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game over 82 games. He was able to continue his breakout campaign during the first round of the playoffs against the Golden State Warriors, too, where he averaged 12.1 points, 15.1 rebounds and 4 blocks per game over the seven game series.
Through five games with the Oklahoma City Thunder, however, Jordan's come back down to Earth and just hasn’t looked like the same player. Looking simply at the box score, you can see his decline, as Jordan is averaging 6.2 points, 8.4 rebounds and 1 block per game during this series. This, too, is far different from the numbers Jordan posted during the four games that he played against the Thunder in the regular season. Then, he averaged 11.8 points, 11.3 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game.
There appear to be a couple of reasons for Jordan's struggles. First, he's been in more foul trouble than usual, which can and probably is hurting his performance and aggressiveness. He's averaging over four fouls per game during this series, which is about one more than his regular season average. Second, both his offensive and defensive rebounding are down, and the Clippers don't run plays for Jordan so all of his opportunities are self-generated. A decline in rebounding obviously hurts his offensive opportunities, and foul trouble can decrease his defensive aggressiveness (resulting in, potentially, fewer blocks per game). Third, Jordan is playing about five minutes less per game than what he did during the regular season.
Anyone who has been watching this series can see that both of these teams are pretty evenly matched. The last two games have been barn burners, and each game had a surprise ending that swung momentum first in the Clippers direction and now in the Thunder’s direction since they're up three games to two after their Game 5 win.
Paul and Griffin have both been superb, and game to game, the Clippers have found a third scorer whether it’s Darren Collison, Jamal Crawford, J.J. Redick or Matt Barnes. The last component that could really help the Clippers win this series is if Jordan can find his mojo and start posting numbers similar to what he did during the regular season. Not only will that mean he's more active offensively, but it should help clog the middle and make the Thunder think twice about coming down the lane.
It still can be either team's series, but if the Clippers are going to win, more will be needed from Mr. Jordan.