LA Clippers Show off NBA-Best Depth Against Love-Less T-Wolves
With Chris Paul missing his third consecutive game due to injury, the Los Angeles Clippers won an ugly battle with the Kevin Love-less Minnesota Timberwolves. LA took home the W at 90-77 and improved to 31-9 on the season.
In turn, the Clippers placed the league's deepest roster on full display.
The Clippers received their scoring boost via stars Jamal Crawford's 22 points and Blake Griffin's 20. With that being said, we'd be remiss to ignore the supporting cast.
Eric Bledsoe, starting in place of the injured CP3, swiped four steals. Lamar Odom had 12 rebounds and six assists in 25 minutes off of the bench.
Even Ronny Turiaf picked up 11 points in 13 minutes.
This displayed the difference between the Clippers and the average NBA franchise. As most crumble without their star, the Clippers have enough depth to overcome any injury.
Their 3-0 record road stretch without CP3 proved just that.
One could make the argument that the Clippers defeated an injury depleted T-Wolves team. The people who make those comments clearly missed the Clippers' previous two games.
LA defeated the 24-13 Memphis Grizzlies by a score of 99-73 in Memphis, Tenn. The Grizzlies are 14-5 at home on the season.
One evening later, the Clippers defeated the 21-19 Houston Rockets by a score of 117-109. The Clippers never let the Rockets make a game of it.
Houston fell to 14-7 at home after LA secured the victory.
Even with an inferior facilitator in Paul's place, the Clippers flourished. They dominated defensively and proved one very important fact.
Regardless of who goes down, there is someone to take their place. Even if that someone is MVP candidate Chris Paul.
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
The most important aspect of the Los Angeles Clippers' extraordinary depth is their plethora of defensive specialists.
Starting in Chris Paul's place has been defensive dynamo Eric Bledsoe. Bledsoe, not Paul, holds the league lead for steals per 48 minutes.
This has been on full display as Bledsoe has averaged 2.7 steals per game during CP3's absence.
Alongside Bledsoe are the likes of Matt Barnes and Grant Hill. Paired with interior stoppers such as DeAndre Jordan, Lamar Odom, Ronny Turiaf and Ryan Hollins, the Clippers have been nothing short of dominant defensively.
Just check the numbers.
For the season, the Clippers are allowing just 93.3 points per game. They held both the Grizzlies and Timberwolves to less than 80 during their past three games.
All of this has come without their defensive leader in Chris Paul.
No one on the Los Angeles Clippers' roster is the caliber facilitator that Chris Paul has proven to be. Fortunately, the Clippers have multiple ball-handlers that are more than capable as distributors.
So much so that CP3's absence can be temporarily overcome.
Jamal Crawford is one of the most dynamic ball-handlers in the history of the NBA. Although he is more inclined to create his own shot than facilitate, Crawford is capable of handling a facilitator's role for short periods of time.
When he's done with that role, you can insert any number of players to take over.
Eric Bledsoe has proven capable of running point in CP3's absence. Although his facilitating skills must improve, he's a defensive monster and a capable ball-handler.
This allows players to work off of the ball and come off of screens for Bledsoe to work a motion style of play. The Clippers' offensive dominance of the Houston Rockets proved just that.
Beyond Bledsoe is Lamar Odom, who can facilitate from the high post or handle the rock to stretch out an inferior athlete at the 4. This creates the lanes for athletes such as Blake Griffin to work off of screens and finish uncontested.
If that's not enough, Willie Green is a skilled ball-handler and Grant Hill is always trustworthy with the ball in his hands.
Once CP3 returns, the Clippers will add the NBA's supreme point guard to the mix. Upon the return of Chauncey Billups, they will only grow stronger.
If you can imagine that being even remotely possible.
All By Design
The Clippers are not your conventional championship contender. Rather than embracing the multiple star approach, they've built their team by acquiring as many quality reserves as financially possible.
As a result, they've created a team that will not crumble because of an injury to one individual.
The Clippers have at least two capable ball-handlers on the floor at all times. This forces an opposing defense to play loose along the perimeter, thus creating space for LA to shoot from mid-range or beyond the arc.
Once the opposition presses up, the countless ball-handlers can either penetrate off of the dribble or hit a teammate in the post or off of the drive.
On defense, the Clippers relieve a ball hawk in CP3 with a defensive monster in Eric Bledsoe. They relieve a solid defensive player in Caron Butler with a smothering veteran in Matt Barnes.
They take Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan out and bring in former NBA champion reserves Lamar Odom and Ronny Turiaf.
As for the task of scoring at a high rate, Sixth Man of the Year front-runner Jamal Crawford certainly fits that billing. Crawford's average of 16.6 points per game should be evidence enough.
As a result of their depth, the Clippers have no consistent area of weakness. It is this truth that has led LA to its best start in franchise history.
The NBA's deepest team remains dominant without its leader. If you're an opposing franchise, that should scare you.
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