Is the LA Clippers’ 10-1 start just a dream?

The LA Clippers’ dominant 10-1 start has come from excellent defense and a level of two-way play we’ve never seen from them before. Can they maintain this new identity?

Just before we get onto the LA Clippers, let me tell you about the perils of chewing ice. Last week, while I was enjoying dinner with my wife, my world was thrown into a frenzy by a small ice cube. The molar on the lower left side of my mouth met in a head to head battle with some cold water and lost. The tooth cracked right down the middle, exposing the nerve, and turning me into a drooling, blubbering baby.

Now, I pride myself on having a high tolerance for pain. I’ve always been a firm believer in the, “just rub some dirt on it” philosophy. But my tooth had me curled up in the fetal position, cursing water in its frozen form. 24 hours and one emergency dental procedure later, my tooth was gone, my cheek was the size of a softball, and I was so hopped up on painkillers I thought I heard someone on ESPN say the Clippers had the number one defense in the NBA.

Dream corp

The next few days were a blur, drifting in and out of consciousness, I couldn’t separate my dreams from reality. I dreamt that two Trailblazing snipers were stymied, and denied even the opportunity to shoot. Through a painkiller induced fog I saw offensive specialists become defensive juggernauts. I even witnessed a raging Thunderstorm, raining down threes on the Clippers, but to no avail.

But these weren’t dreams. As the pain in my mouth subsided, and the fog in my head cleared, the reality of this Clippers team began to set in.

The Clippers really do have the best defense in the NBA. They lead the league in defensive efficiency, allowing a suffocating total of just 93 points per 100 possessions.

They held Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum to a combined 16 points. Jamal Crawford and Marreese Speights have actually been playing good defense, and so has the entire second unit.

The Clippers beat the San Antonio Spurs 116-92 on the road and defeated a Thunder team that shot 50 percent from downtown in their last matchup. DeAndre Jordan is even making his free throws (the second best, but still bad, mark of his career at 45.8 percent)! What is going on?!

Defensive identity

The LA Clippers’ 10-1 start has the league on notice. But it’s the way that they’re winning that has been such a pleasant surprise. They lead the league by a mile in +/- at +16.6, well ahead of second-place Atlanta at +9.9.

The Clippers’ locked in defense looks legitimately good, and the players seem to have embraced the team’s new defensive identity.

Ever since Doc has taken over as the head coach for the Clippers, the team has been known for its high flying offense. But that is all changing this year. The Clippers are shutting down good offensive teams and making life hard for elite scorers.

Luc Mbah a Moute has been great for the Clippers in the early going, consistently guarding the opposing team’s best offensive player, regardless of position. He even held Kawhi Leonard to 3-of-13 shooting when the Clips defeated the Spurs.

For the first time in the Doc Rivers era, the Clippers are winning with their defense, and not just their offense.

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We have an awful long way to go before we can start calling this a dream season. But this surreal first 11 games has me very excited. If Lob City can maintain this new defensive identity that is serving them so well, we could be in store for a truly special season of LA Clippers basketball.

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