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Clippers showing a lot of room for improvement… and still winning

Jan 15, 2012, 9:00 AM EDT

Los Angeles Lakers v Los Angeles Clippers

Chris Paul is still trying to get his guys to know what he wants them to do. Chauncey Billups is still firing away without enough consideration and dribbling like he’s the point guard at times. Caron Butler is still finding his legs. DeAndre Jordan is still adapting to being the anchor of the defense down low and how to create offensive rebound opportunities without clogging the lane.

Blake Griffin has to either find or abandon his mid-range shot and has to do a better job of controlling space down low and on the block.

And yet, the Clippers keep winning.

The Clippers beat the Lakers 102-94 Saturday night behind 33 points from Chris Paul and 22 points and 14 rebounds from Blake Griffin. And still it was impossible to walk away from the game and not see that the Clippers are very much still a work in progress. While teams like the Knicks try and sort out who they are and struggle mightily, the Clippers have lodged wins now over the Blazers, Heat, and Lakers. It was assumed that the Clippers would struggle with the great teams considering they were pounded by Chicago and San Antonio and had poor defensive stats. Yet here they are, 6-3 and improving with each game.

They may take a step backwards in the next week with Paul recovering from a strained hamstring he suffered in the fourth quarter of the win over the Lakers, but the point remains. The Clippers are growing up and still producing wins.

This is the start of the hard part of their schedule, and thins may get considerably worse. But there’s a lot to be encouraged by. Their two primary issues of concern this season have been rebounding and defense, and both were stout against the big brother Lakers Saturday night. Kobe Bryant‘s 42 points were hard-earned, and the rest of the team was largely held in check.

Griffin had a surprisingly great all-around game on paper, when after a sizzling start, he seemed to fade a little bit. Griffin continues to try and pull defenders away from the rim in order to create space on the drive by shooting mid-range jumpers, which continue to not fall. The shot is awkward and clunky, and his rhythm is stilted off the catch. He too often sprawl out in athletic leap instead of containing his man against his back on boxouts. And yet here is, racking up 22 and 14 and making Pau Gasol look silly the longer the game went on.

The big knock on the Clippers is that it would take some time for them to unravel how their team is going to function. And it is taking some time. But in the meantime, the have the talent to compete right now, and it’s working.

  1. jimsjam33 - Jan 15, 2012 at 11:26 AM

    The Clippers are a team on the rise. A team with a nice combination of youth and materity which after nine games is still trying to find it’s identity . As I recall after 17 games last year , the Miami Heat were 9-8 and they had the fabulous three ! It takes time to adjust to each other on the court and recognize your team mates nuances .
    The Clippers as presently constituted are as dangerous as any team in the NBA right now . Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are high energy skilled masters at their positions . DeAndre Jordan is playing his first season as a front line player . Billups and Butler are former All-Stars . The Clippers are for real and are the most exciting team in basketball to watch , bar none .

  2. cdog0o7 - Jan 15, 2012 at 2:47 PM

    The ovverrating of Blake Griffin has to stop. He’s a nice player, but he’s certainly not at the superstar level yet.

    Chris Paul was very good last, but he’s also lost a step. The game against DRose told the whole story, CP3 couldn’t come close to staying in front of him. The Ramon Sessions of the world light up the Lakers point guards, CP3 did what he was supposed to do. But he did the exact same thing last year in the playoffs against the Lakers for one game, and then dissapeared in the next. Last night’s game was ugly for both teams, but the Clippers are no more than 1st round fodder at this point.

    DeAndre was “playing as a front line player” last season. Fact is, the Clippers overpaid for a guy who will be disregarded offensively cuz all he can do is dunk.

    Best team in the West right now is probably Devner, because they are dangerous at every position.

    And they aren’t even close to the most exciting team in basketball to watch – unless you like to watch subpar basketball for a team that’s one of the worst in the league in rebounding and defense.

    • dannymac17 - Jan 16, 2012 at 12:15 PM

      Dumbest comment of 2012. Congrats.

      Denver?

      Wow.

  3. progress2011 - Jan 15, 2012 at 3:24 PM

    Any team that has 3 new starters added to their roster of only 5 players, is going to be a ” work in progress ” this early in the season. I mean, that’s just common sense.

    As long as they continue to beat their in-town rival, that has one of the best legacies in the league, I would consider that consistent and significant progress.

  4. weaselpuppy - Jan 15, 2012 at 9:42 PM

    when healthy, they ship Mo Williams for an athletic wing….Between CP3 Chauncey Foye and Bledsoe they have plenty of backcourt….Butler is a nice vet move, but they need a rangy big 3/4 swing guy on the 2nd unit to hit some shots….3 way deal- Mo W to Jazz, Charlie V to Clips Milsap to Pistons…salaries fit….Jazz if they want can spin off D Harris to Dallas for Odom or Utah for Ariza….

    • weaselpuppy - Jan 15, 2012 at 9:43 PM

      sorry meant to NOLA for Ariza….

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