LOS ANGELES-You win some. You lose some. Streaks come and go in the NBA. The Clippers have been on this rollercoaster since the beginning of the season. After hitting a rough patch where they lost six games in a row, the Los Angeles Clippers seem to be clicking again with a current win streak. But who and what is this team nobody really seems to know.
Every team has an identification mark. The Memphis Grizzlies are pretty much known as the blue-collar team with the Bruise Brothers in Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol powering up. The Golden State Warriors have the “Splash Brothers” in Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and now Kevin Durant. The Oklahoma City Thunder can brag about their TD (triple-double) machine in Russell Westbrook.
The San Antonio Spurs are the no-frills bunch under coach Greg Popovich. The Cleveland Cavaliers are an extension of the LeBron James brand.
So, what about the Clippers? What trends under their moniker? For now, that remains a guessing game until the team get back a healthy Blake Griffin. The Clippers used to be “Lob City,” home of the flying dunks, spectacular performances and exciting moments with a riveted Staples Center audience sitting on edge for the next superhuman play.
Those plays have dried up to a minimum these days. What you have now is a Clippers team that can be construed to be more deliberate and methodical-like in their approach to cutting up and dismantling their opponents the way they took out the Miami Heat at Staples Center on Sunday during an early matinee game.
The lob dunks, on behalf of center DeAndre Jordan, came through a couple of times during the Clippers’ 98-86 win against the Heat. But because this an older, more injury-proned squad, the Clippers’ aerial theatrics come in the moment now and not as a sustained strategy.
So the quandary that Clippers coach Doc Rivers and his staff must deal with consistently is blending the old with the new. Sometimes that means switching lineups. Outside of the Formidable Four-a healthy Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan and J.J. Redick-Rivers continues to search for the right combination of bodies that will make sense, in terms of productivity and success.
For right now, all things goes. Against Miami, Rivers inserted guard Raymond Felton to the starting lineup. The matchup worked in the Clippers’ favor. Running up and down the court was definitely not in the cards as the Clippers took their time in putting away the Heat. Shooting only 41 percent from the field, the Clippers distant themselves from Miami with a 32-20 second quarter run.
It’s a good thing they off to that fast start. The Heat made things closer than they should have been, outscoring the Clippers, 20-18, in the fourth quarter to make the final outcome respectable. What the Clippers’ start and finish showed us is that the team can still use some tweaking in order to close out games more effectively.
This is a mature ballclub. So trying to keep up with the Warriors or a team like the Houston Rockets would not be wise. What the Clippers do pretty well is take advantage of the opportunity of having point guard Paul as their on-court leader.
When you reference the Clippers with Paul in the lineup, you come up with “grit” as your definition. With Paul running things again after an extended absence because of a hamstring injury, the Clippers ramped up the defense against Miami and found the offensive flow that they lacked during their losing spell. Paul scored 19 points and handed out 18 assists and had only one turnover in the Clippers’ fourth win in a grow.
On a more personal note, Paul cracked the 8,000 assists barrier during the Miami-Clippers game, becoming just the 10th player record this feat. Perhaps centering the team’s identity on Paul would not be a bad idea.