The LA Clippers are finally (almost) healthy. Aside from the recent ankle sprain from point guard John Wall, they are fully loaded. From an optimist’s perspective, the team looks every bit of the championship contender that many thought they were. From a pessimist’s, the glaring issues are still there. Lack of urgency at times, causing lulls in the game that allow runs for the opposing team. Some questionable coaching by one of the best coaches in the league led to confusion amongst Clipper faithful as well. But with all the bumps and bruises, one thing remains clear. The Clippers’ biggest threat is themselves.
The Clippers’ Biggest Threat is Themselves
December 21st was a fun night in Los Angeles. Not just because southern California native and high school sensation, LaMelo Ball, was back in town. But it was one of the few nights this season that the Clippers had a full roster. The injury bug hit the Clippers early in the season. Couple that with the medical staff’s caution for holding players out and you get a frustrating start to the season.
But there was something special about that game. Though the Charlotte Hornets are not the cream of the crop in the league, it was an opportunity for the Clippers to show who they were. And did they ever. Not one player had an explosive performance, but everyone was a star in their roles. Kawhi Leonard continued his progression back to his old self. Paul George picked up where he left off with his stellar rhythm. And Norman Powell and Luke Kennard looked like offensive dynamos coming off the bench. It was a good win and an opportunity for the talented team to get real reps.
Fast forward to Friday night against the Philadelphia 76ers. The Clippers eventually took a 20-point lead in the game but ended up losing it and the game thanks to some lulls in the third and questionable lineups in the fourth quarter. Same old Clippers, some might say. There are times when they elect to make the offense harder than it is and put up unwarranted isolation shots or settle. Yes, they deserve credit for building the lead, but it is a rather disappointing result going into the holiday.
What might be more confusing was Ty Lue’s rotations. Kennard, Powell, and Nicolas Batum all had cases to close the game due to the positive impact they had. However, Lue ended up opting for Reggie Jackson and Marcus Morris Sr. Not sure if it was a decision for continuity since they had the most reps with Leonard and George. Or if it was to increase their confidence, but it did not make sense to play them over the options they had. Am I concerned about this team? Not at all. They showed what they can be with a (mostly) healthy roster. But they have not had many games together for Lue to gather his assessment of the squad. Lue is one of the smartest adjusters in the league. It could be a part of his plan, but we may not know until later.