LOS ANGELES, CA-So what have we learned about the Los Angeles Clippers through the first couple of games they’ve played at Staples Center? Well, we know they’re big. They’re long. They’re much more versatile as a team. They’re deep. The defensive energy is high. Considering all the mega-teams loaded in the NBA’s Western Conference, the Clippers are under radar.
And they don’t just stand around while one guy dribbles the ball off the 24 seconds clock. So far, so good. The ball movement exhibited in wins against the Los Angeles Lakers on opening night and against the Phoenix Suns in their first home game of the season, suggest the Clippers are probably just as deep as any team in the league.
The star-power juice of Chris Paul may be gone, but from what we’re seeing on the floor thus far, the Clippers are a much better team without the All-Star point guard. The offensive flow now goes through forward Blake Griffin. The defensive identity has been charged with the tenacity of the newly arrived Patrick Beverly.
Then if you throw in the mix of newcomers like Willie Reed, Danilo Gallinari, Lou Williams and Milos Teodosic, the Clippers have a much different lineup that they’ve had in the past. As both the Lakers and Suns and everyone else have found out is that the Clippers have their best team since the Doc Rivers era took over Los Angeles. Old retreads have been replaced by younger and more viable bodies.
The length of the Clippers’ frontline of Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and Gallanri is enough to give opposing teams matchup nightmares. The Lakers and their band of young players, had major matchup issues with the Clippers frontline. The Suns were just plain overwhelmed by the Clippers’ length. The Clippers’ 130-88 domination of the Suns rides off the back of L.A knocking off the Lakers on Thursday night. This is a different team.
The Clippers’ new identity may not be as glamour as “Lob City,” but that mantra never got LA past the second round of the postseason. It’s very early into an 82-game schedule, but the vibe of the Clippers indicate a more solid, all-around team that pose as much as matchup issues as the Golden State Warriors does with their “small ball.” Griffin went for 29 (points) and 12 (rebounds) against the Lakers.
Against the Suns, Griffin put up another 29 to go along with his eight rebounds and four assists in just 28 minutes of playing time. Williams, who basically replaced Jamal Crawford, put up 18 points for the Clippers, who scored 35, 32 and 40 points in the last three quarters, respectively. Phoenix, which made only 21 of its 71 field goal attempts during the game, didn’t have a single player score more than 15 points.
Griffin has been the catalyst on both ends of the floor for the Clippers. Though he has slowed a bit from the big power slam moves fans have been accustomed to seeing over the years, it is clear that when he needs to ramp the volume for the Clippers’ low-post game to get ignited, Griffin can deliver it when he needs to. The Clippers didn’t really need that against the Suns, but Griffin sent home plenty of fans with smiles on their faces when he finished off a fastbreak in the third quarter with an emphatic flush for two points.