This season’s NBA has seen a lot of teams display impressive and dominant performances on multiple occasions. Those performances have seen them ascend to the top half of their respective conferences and divisions. As a result, they are now deemed favorites to claim the Championship at the end of the season should it be resumed anytime soon. The Los Angeles Clippers have enjoyed one of their best and solid seasons so far in recent years despite their inconsistencies at times. After 64 games this season, the Clippers find themselves sitting comfortably in second place on the Western Conference table behind their Los Angeles rivals, the Lakers with a 44-20 win-loss record. They also lie second in the Pacific Division courtesy of the six victories from their recent seven games.
At the moment, they are pole position to make the playoffs for the eighth consecutive season and perhaps advance to the NBA finals to claim their first-ever NBA Championship.
We take a look at the Los Angeles Clippers’ season so far, the factors behind their successes this season, and their chances of winning this season’s title.
Los Angeles Clippers’ Season so far
After a summer of significant changes and acquisitions, the Los Angeles Clippers went into the season with high optimism. Their opening two fixtures were against two other title contenders in the shape of their main rivals, Los Angeles Lakers at home and Golden State Warriors on the road. The Clippers withstood any pressure from both teams to claim important victories, beating the Lakers 112-102 and the Golden State Warriors 141-122. However, consecutive losses on the road at Phoenix Suns (130-122) and Utah Jazz (110-96) in-between a 111-96 home over the Charlotte Hornets quickly halted any talks of a title push and exposed the team’s inconsistency. The defeats also raised concerns over the Clippers team and their ability to cope with the spotlight on them.
After the opening ten games of the season, the Clippers had recorded seven wins and three defeats. Significant victories at home over the Boston Celtics (107-104 OT) and the Houston Rockets (122-119) in the next ten games saw the Clippers go on a 7-game winning run during that period. The following ten games also saw the Clippers claim another seven wins and three defeats from ten games for the third consecutive time in the season. The victories came against the likes of Washington Wizards, Portland Trail Blazers, Indiana Pacers, defending Champions Toronto Raptors, Minnesota Timberwolves, and Phoenix Suns with two of their three defeats coming against big guns Milwaukee Bucks and Houston Rockets. The Clippers’ defeat to the Rockets was their second in three games against the Houston side. The loss to the Bucks also represented a second consecutive loss to Milwaukee in their first two meetings of the season. Their struggles against the NBA’s big guns were now evident. However, a 111-106 win over the Lakers on the road in their second meeting of the season quickly cleared any doubts about the team’s deficiencies. Since beating the Lakers, the Clippers have recorded 21 wins and ten losses from 31 games, including a recent 112-103 loss to the in-form Lakers at home. Some of the Clippers’ wins in that period came against Miami Heat, Denver Nuggets, Philadelphia 76ers, Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets.
Factors behind their success: The Acquisitions of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George
The most significant feature of the Clippers team this season is the star power they possess. The Clippers made a big splash last summer, putting the NBA on notice with the acquisition of two-time MVP Kawhi Leonard from defending Champions Toronto Raptors and Paul George from Oklahoma City Thunder. The addition of the two big names and their pedigrees have made the big difference for the Clippers this season. The two men have been able to strike an excellent partnership since joining the team. Kawhi Leonard decided to join the Clippers when they agreed to trade for Paul George.
Kawhi Leonard has averaged 26.9 points per game, 7.3 rebounds per game and 5.0 assists per game in 51 appearances for the Clippers this season. In total, he has recorded 1,370 points, 226 points fewer than his tally for the Raptors last season. He also has 373 rebounds and 254 assists, six less than his career-high 260 assists at San Antonio Spurs.
Despite missing most of the season-opening games, Paul George has been impressive. The Shooting Guard has averaged 21.0 points per game, 5.7 rebounds per game and 3.9 assists per game in 42 games. In total, he has recorded 880 points, 241 rebounds, and 162 assists. Both players became the first two teammates in NBA history to score more than 40 points in a single game after beating the Minnesota Timberwolves 124-117 in October. Kawhi recorded 42 points while Paul George grabbed 46 points. Both men also combined for 58 points in the recent 112-103 loss to the Lakers.
Both men’s presence has also had a huge on Power Forward Montrezl Harrell has been a standout performer on numerous occasions this season. He has averaged 18.6 points per game, 7.1 rebounds per game and 1.7 assists per game in 63 games so far. He had averaged 16.6 points per game, 6.5 rebounds per game and 2.0 assists per game in 82 games last season. These numbers show an improvement in Harrell’s game since the arrivals of Leonard and George despite only two starts.
Clippers’ Chances of winning NBA title
At the moment, there is uncertainty surrounding the remainder of the season due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, the Clippers will still have a shot at the title if the NBA resumes. The main focus now will be on securing a playoff spot. For that to happen, they will need to become more consistent, like the Bucks and Lakers.