January 16, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; LA Clippers guard Austin Rivers (25) moves the ball against the Oklahoma City Thunder during the second half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
The LA Clippers are streaking, but now with the injury to Chris Paul (thumb) and Blake Griffin already out, how long can they continue to win?
The LA Clippers hunkered down on defense to shake their six-game losing streak, flip it, and now have a seven-game winning steak. But with 2:56 left in second quarter against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday, the Clippers pulled Chris Paul from the game because of injury, not because of the 16-point lead. The following day the Clippers and the world found out Chris needs surgery to fix a torn ligament inn his thumb.
L.A. is playing great basketball, even enough to finish off the Thunder and win by 22. The problem going forward is how long can they keep racking up wins without Chris Paul while they are still without Blake Griffin for a little longer.
Paul had successful surgery on his thumb Wednesday. The timetable for the Clippers without Paul is six-eight weeks, and the Clippers have played well in Paul’s absence before, but Griffin was in the lineup. They now have to play without their two best players and try to stay afloat to keep up seeding to secure home court in the playoffs.
The Clippers are 2-7 without both Chris and Blake this year, so we can expect a drop off. I do not see them continuing their winning streak, yet while they can win somewhat without them (their strong win over the Memphis Grizzlies earlier this season without both), the sooner they get their stars back the better.
January 16, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers guard Raymond Felton (2) moves to the basket against Oklahoma City Thunder center Joffrey Lauvergne (77) during the second half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
In the next month the LA Clippers play just three games at Staple Center and the other 10 games on the road. They haven’t looked the same without Blake, but now having to be without Paul makes things even more interesting because they struggle to run effective offensive sets without their two leading floor generals. The ball becomes stagnant and the turnovers seem to pile up without their “Point God.”
The Clippers play the Minnesota Timberwolves on Thursday, and will be tested by a bunch who can score but have problems closing out games. The Timberwolves have been inconsistent in their play but with how long and how fast they are, it’s possible for them to beat anyone on a good night. The Clippers test comes immediately to see if the streak continues or falters.
The Clippers now need Austin Rivers and Raymond Felton to be aggressive and attack at will with some distribution duties. They’ll need to get J.J. Redick heavily involved, who is always best as a catch-and-shoot threat, darting around the perimeter or coming up off pin-down screens.
Then there’s DeAndre Jordan as well, who needs someone to throw up those deadly lobs out of the pick-and-roll. Austin (2.5 assists) and Raymond (2.3 assists) need to find a way to distribute more to help others get easier baskets.
Jan 4, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Memphis Grizzlies guard Mike Conley (11) defends LA Clippers guard Austin Rivers (25) in the second half at Staples Center. The Clippers won 115-106. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Rivers needs to emerge
Austin Rivers has always shown sparks of something more in his game, but it has never been consistent enough to warrant his top-ten draft selection. Many would say that if it were not for his father Doc Rivers (GM/Coach) he might have been out of the league and not signed a four-year deal prior to the start of this season.
He can play and he has another gear where he can affect the outcome of games without question, but consistency has not been his best friend. He has gone through stretches where he has looked like a very capable starting guard. Then, other times you are left to think and scratch your head, “Did he really just throw up that shot, with that much time left?”
Austin will continue to do that, but after a slow start to the season, he has shot well from deep (a career-high 38.9 percent) and has been one of the Clippers more dependable shooters. He is not the passer Blake is, but if he can give some leadership and help control games until they can at least get Griffin back it could help steady the ship.
“When everyone is back, when you get Chris and Blake back, if this group can execute, and then you put those two guys back on the floor, I think it makes us better in the long run. This is not the way you want to do it, but this is the way it’s been presented.”
December 25, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; LA Clippers guard Chris Paul and forward Blake Griffin (32) watche game action against the Los Angeles Lakers during the second half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Blake Griffin’s Return
Griffin is expected to return sometime before the end of January, but how close to 100 percent is he going to be? He is doing cardio and has been warming up and taking shots before recent games.
It will definitely help to have Blake back because he was third in MVP voting a few years back when Chris was hurt, showing what he can do alone.
I believe it will take some time and he should possibly only miss the next three or four games and even play a game before the Golden State Warriors game on the 28th of January. Do you play him before or after that game? He is coming off one of the worst games he’s played the last time both teams played in early December. The mental aspect of the game is always one of the hardest for players to come back from injury.
If possible I would say to bring Blake back slowly and make sure there is no little hiccups in his rehab and continue to monitor how he feels day-to-day.
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The LA Clippers need Griffin back in the mix to allow time for him to get back to where he was and give him time to get back into the flow. Luckily All-Star weekend is coming up and it will allow more time for injuries and time for rust to be shaken off for Griffin.