The Clippers extended their losing streak to four and then immediately snapped it. In the loss against the Blazers in game No. 1, the same issues crept up that have been plaguing the Clippers all season: poor perimeter defense and poor foul shooting. Portland was able to shoot 11 for 25 from beyond the arc and 20 for 21 from the charity stripe. The Clippers, on the other hand, went 7 for 16 from long distance and 13 for 17 from the free throw line. That adds up to Clippers needing to make six more shots than the Blazers to win; unfortunately they were only able to get five and lost the game by one.
In Portland game No. 2, the Clippers played much better defense and held Portland to only 66 shots and 43.9 percent shooting. Better yet, Portland only went 3 for 15 from long range. The Clippers kept playing well offensively and shot 51.5 percent from the field and recorded their first double-digit win in six games.
The Clippers rank fourth in offensive efficiency and fifth in defensive efficiency, and according to our nERD algorithm, they are the best team in the league at the moment. They do not, however, have the highest chance of winning the title. This can be counter-intuitive because if you say that a team is the best in the league then they should have the highest chance of winning the title. Playoff basketball is different, you need to be able to grind out games and make big shots.
Unfortunately, those are the Clippers' two weakest areas. The Clippers will have a hard time grinding out games because of their poor free throw shooting, ranked 26th in the league. And big shots might be hard to come by when they shoot just 35.3 percent (18th in the league) from long distance. On defense, they allow teams to shoot 36.6 percent (ninth-worst in the league) from beyond the arc, which does not seem too bad until you consider that in losses, their opponents shoot 45.4 percent. And with all the top three point shooting teams headed for the playoffs, it could be an issue. So as we head into second half of the season, look for the Clippers to work on closing that gap.
The Clippers begin a brutal two week road trip that has them playing eight games in 12 nights. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the road trip ends with another back-to-back game set again the Knicks and the Sixers. The only positive news right now is that Chris Paul might come back during this stretch.
The first of the road trip is against the 17-24 Timberwolves who the Clippers have already beaten twice this season. The key is going to keep the Wolves from shooting the lights out, which should be the too difficult since they are the worst three point shooting team in the league. Combine that with Kevin Love being out, and the Clippers should have no problem of starting the road trip with a win.