The Los Angeles Clippers are currently 9-5 and sitting atop the Pacific Division.
The Clippers intended to compete this year when they traded for All-Star point guard Chris Paul, and he provided for Los Angeles early. However, Paul missed his fifth straight game Sunday with a left hamstring strain.
Without Paul, the Clippers have gone 3-2. They beat the Mavericks, Nets and Raptors, but lost games to the Timberwolves and Jazz. In Paul's absence, the Clippers have still looked like a good team, and they could just as easily be 4-1 without Paul.
A big reason for the Clippers' success without Paul has been point guard Mo Williams' play. Williams has stepped up more than any other player since he came back from injury.
Before going down with an injury, Williams was averaging just over 10 points a game and four assists. Since coming back, Williams has averaged a little under 26 points a game and the same amount of assists.
Williams practically carried the Clippers on his back against the Timberwolves and it showed just how much the team needed him when he was ejected from the game. Late in the fourth quarter, the Clippers were up 89-84 when Williams received his second technical foul of the game and was ejected.
At that point, Williams had 25 points and was the hottest shooter on the court. Williams was shooting 72 percent for the night and also had five assists. After he left the game, the Clippers fell apart. They gave up a lead and lost after Kevin Love hit a buzzer-beater to win the game.
In Sunday's victory over the Raptors, Williams carried the team from the bench. He had 26 points off of the bench, the most of any Clipper, and once again looked like the best player on the court.
The Clippers have definitely missed Chris Paul and they will continue to until he comes back, but Williams has stepped up to the plate in the wake of this superstar's absence.
If Williams can continue this sort of production off of the bench when Paul returns, then the Clippers may move into the elite category. Combine Paul and Williams with the likes of Blake Griffin, Chauncey Billups and the other good players on that team and we may see the Clippers enter the playoffs this season.
Los Angeles has been ruled by the Lakers for decades now. In fact, the Clippers have only made the playoffs four times since they've been in LA, the last coming in the 2005-2006 season.
However, 2012 has something different in store for Los Angeles. This year, we may see the Clippers as the top team in the City of Angels.
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