When asked about his team and asked to give an assessment thus far about their positioning with regards to playoffs and all that, Doc Rivers had this to say.
“Love it,” the coach said last week. “Couldn’t be in a better place, especially when you factor in the injuries, especially to a top-10 player and what we’ve gone through, I’ll take that all year, every day, so it’s nice.”
That top 10 player is Blake Griffin and the Clippers have been downright resilient without him, bringing their record to an impressive 18-5 since Griffin was hurt and subsequently suspended for punching the team assistant equipment manager twice.
The Clippers (without Griffin) are in fourth place in the West and are in line for home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. A desired spot to say the least.
One factor presumably working against the L.A. Clippers the next few weeks, though, is their schedule. Their next two opponents are the two best teams in basketball, standings-wise, the San Antonio Spurs and Golden State Warriors. The two teams have a combined record of 93-12 and both come in riding streaks: six for the Spurs and 11 for the Warriors.
Six of the Clippers first ten games after All Star break are against winning teams.
Austin Rivers is another injured player for the Clippers; the reserve guard is out for a monthlong injury absence. Because of his absence, Chris Paul logged 47 minutes the other night in an overtime game against the Boston Celtics. He played all of the second half and overtime in that thriller.
Their defense has flourished without Blake Griffin. The Clippers ranked 17th in the NBA in defensive efficiency (101.6 points given up per 100 possessions) and 19th in points allowed (101.7 a game) from the start of the season through the end of November.
Since then, they are fourth in defensive efficiency (100.8 points per 100 possessions) and eighth in points allowed (100.3).
“That’s been a big part of our run,” Redick said. “Without Blake, it’s been our defense.”
Of course, the Clippers welcome big Blake Griffin back with open arms: as soon as his broken hand heals and he serves his suspension. But until then, they ride the wave of highs they have created through next-man-up mentality.