Friday, December 21, 2012
Clippers streaking to the top of the West
By Ernest Tolden, ESPN Stats & Information
Kent Smith/NBAE/Getty ImageShowtime has returned to Los Angeles. This time, it’s in the form of Clipper red, royal blue and white, and not the traditional purple and gold.
Blake Griffin and the Clippers have had a lot to celebrate this year.
The Clippers have emerged this season as top Western Conference contenders and one of the best teams in the NBA.
Los Angeles has won its last 11 games, matching the franchise's longest win streak, originally set by the 1974-75 Buffalo Braves.
At 19-6, the Clippers are off to their best 25-game start in franchise history. Last year, they finished the regular season 40-26, recording the highest single-season win percentage in franchise history at .606.
This season they have even higher expectations, as they’ve shown improvements in several key areas, propelling them into the NBA’s elite.
"Defense Wins Championships" is the motto the Clippers have adopted this season. They ranked 18th in defensive efficiency last season, allowing 102.9 points per 100 possessions. This season Los Angeles ranks fourth, allowing 97.7 points per 100 possessions.
The Clippers’ pressure defense has been outstanding this year, forcing an NBA-high 17.5 turnovers per game.
They have also been able to turn their opponents’ miscues into scoring opportunities better than any team in the league.
They average an NBA-high 22 points off turnovers, including a season-high 31 points off turnovers in their 93-77 win Wednesday over the New Orleans Hornets.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Clippers have picked up where they left off last season. They remain one of the most efficient offenses in the NBA, averaging 107.7 points per 100 possessions.
The Clippers are finding easy ways to score. They rank third in the league in field goal percentage, likely due to where on the court their shots are coming from.
The Clippers thrive in the paint, where 47.3 percent of their total points have been scored. Only the Denver Nuggets score a higher percentage of their points in that area at 53.8 percent.
The high-flying frontcourt duo of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan has fueled the team’s success inside.
Both players rank in the top five in dunks for the third consecutive season. In fact, Griffin’s 472 dunks over the last three seasons are the most in the NBA in that span.
The Clippers’ biggest improvement has been their increased depth. They rank second in the NBA in bench points per game, a significant jump for a unit that ranked 26th in scoring last season.
The Clippers’ reserves have played a key role in the team’s recent surge, outscoring their opponents’ bench in nine of the last 10 games overall.
The biggest spark off the bench is Jamal Crawford, who leads all reserves in scoring at 16.6 points per game. Despite not starting, he has been the team’s primary closer this season. Crawford averages 7.2 points in the fourth quarter, trailing only Kobe Bryant in that category this season.
The Clippers will host the Kings on Friday at the Staples Center. With a win, they would match the Thunder for the longest win streak this season.