Dissecting the Los Angeles Clippers' 2 Game Slide
Riding a 17-game winning streak, the Los Angeles Clippers skyrocketed to the best record in the league.
The Clippers' 25-5 record made them the talk of the town in Los Angeles, something that is highly coveted rightfully deserved after not losing a game in the entire month of December.
Is there a problem in Clipperland? Here are five reasons why the Clippers have lost two straight games for the first time since Thanksgiving.
Missing 3-Point Shots
The Clippers' biggest strength on offense has to be the improvement in their 3-point shooting.
In the last two games, the Clippers have struggled from downtown shooting 25 and 27 percent respectively.
Not only have shots stopped falling, but the timing of these misses are detrimental to the team.
Against Denver, the Clippers slowed down the high-paced Nuggets attack late in the third and early in the fourth quarter but missing open three-point shots doomed the their 17-game winning streak.
The Clippers limited Golden State to under 25 percent shooting in the third quarter, yet could not mount a comeback due to their zero for six shooting from downtown.
Jamal Crawford, Matt Barnes and Caron Butler have been the Clippers main shooting cogs this season. Crawford has made only four of his last 15-three point shots though. Barnes is shooting 30-percent, while Butler went one for six during his only game in action.
Tribe Called Bench Cooling
Tribe Called Bench is one of the best benches in the league, yet the last two contests have come up short following their outstanding early form.
With Grant Hill set to return later this month, the current 10-man deep bench has steadily returned to earth over the last five or six games.
Jamal Crawford scored 33 points in his last two games, but has struggled to keep the Clippers close early in the game.
Eric Bledsoe has slowed significantly after suffering a sore left hip against Detroit on December 17th. Bledsoe has not been as explosive and aggressive while playing through the pain.
Matt Barnes has been one of the bright spots off the bench after starting last night against Golden State because of the injury suffered to Caron Butler. Barnes scored 19 points in the starting role and is building a strong resume for a new contract this offseason.
Lamar Odom has grabbed close to eight boards over his last five games, giving head coach Vinny Del Negro more confidence in playing the 6'10" forward. The issue with Odom is that the shots continues to miss. He averaged only three points per night, making him a work in progress still.
Blake Griffin's Immaturity
With pressure mounting on the Clippers as the team to beat in the Western Conference, superstar Blake Griffin has not responded well to poor play over the last two games.
Griffin averaged 11 points on six of 22 shooting during the recent losing streak and only grabbed 8 rebounds per contest. What has been more concerning is the lack of consistency in Griffin's overall game, especially against taller and more athletic defenders.
Denver forwards JaVale McGee, Kenneth Faried and Kosta Koufos are all athletic big men that made life difficult for Griffin all night long. Once the Clippers fell behind early, Griffin checked out of the game and was not playing with the same spark that we have come to expect.
The next night, the Clippers were harassed in an intense Golden State environment and Griffin was not taking well to his poor performance. With hands over his head for most of the second half, Griffin looked lost on the court struggling to find his confidence.
Best exemplified by his 3-point shot that hit the side of the glass, Griffin was trying too hard to make the key play for the Clippers. Luckily for Griffin, the slow Los Angeles Lakers come into town on Friday.
Still Forcing Turnovers
Led by Chris Paul, the Clippers are forcing the most turnovers in the league with just over 17.5 per game.
Paul is leading the league with 2.67 steals per game, leading the charge as the best team to pick someones pocket this season.
The Clippers have continued to limit their own turnovers, and have still been positive in the turnover differential even during their two-game losing streak.
Against the Denver Nuggets, the Clippers forced 15 turnovers while only committing 13 themselves on the road.
What was most astounding in the loss to Golden State was that the Clippers forced 20 turnovers yet were outscored in the points off turnovers statistic.
The Clippers have struggled to score on the fast break, limiting Lob City to only 33 fast-break points while allowing 40 themselves.
The lack of fast-break points could be the most concerning aspect of the turnover department. The Clippers bench, especially Matt Barnes and Eric Bledsoe, do an excellent job of forcing turnovers to push the pace of play.
Willie Green More Valuable Than You Think
Called the most professional player on the team by coach Vinny Del Negro, Willie Green has started at shooting guard in place of Chauncey Billups. With the emergence of Jamal Crawford though, Green has played limited minutes this season, yet his impact is understated.
Green is averaging six points per night on 43 percent shooting from the field, while shooting 39 percent from behind-the-arc this season. Although he only averages 18 minutes per game, Green's impact is tremendous on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor.
Green starts games against the likes of Kobe Bryant, Klay Thompson and some of the best shooters in the league. His quickness and agility on the defensive end limits easy drives to the basket, allowing the Clippers defense to attack corner shooters to limit opponents three-point shooting.
Like Caron Butler, Willie Green lives from the 3-point line. On average, 50 percent of Willie Green's shots are worth three points. Over the last two games, Green is only shooting 10 percent (1 for 10), from his favorite spot on the floor.
The starting shooting guard makes the most out of his minutes, and is the glue that keeps the Clippers together on the road to one of the best records in the NBA.