The Clippers have started the 2015 -2016 NBA season with three wins in a row led by their three superstars, Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, and DeAndre Jordan.
Griffin is playing like an MVP candidate after averaging 32 points and nearly ten rebounds per game. Paul is averaging nine assists and nearly 15 points per game. And Jordan is averaging 16 rebounds and five blocked shots per game. Strong numbers for the big three.
The Clippers are shooting 49% from the floor, moving the ball, and playing unselfishly. They still take the occasional bad shot, like Austin Rivers bringing the ball upcourt and firing up a contested three from 30 feet without even looking to pass. This selfish decision led to a series of bad three point shots as the other bench players decided to do the same thing to pad their individual stat sheets and makes one question Rivers’ ability to run the offense for the second unit.
Besides Rivers, most of the Clippers seem to have embraced the idea of sharing the ball and forgoing personal stats to getting the best shot, no matter who is shooting the ball. And they know who should be taking the shots. Griffin is averaging 64.4% shooting from the floor, a number that is even more impressive considering how many outside jumpers Griffin shoots since he dedicated himself to improving his outside shot. JJ Redick is shooting 58.6% overall and 54.5% from the three point line, which are phenomenal numbers for any shooting guard. Redick is also perfect from the free throw line, firmly establishing himself as one of the best long range shooters in the game.
The Clippers defense has held their opponents to a combined 40.8% from the field in their first three games. Granted they played the Sacramento Kings twice and the Dallas Mavericks in the other game, and neither the Kings or the Mavericks are one of the Western Conference’s elite teams. But Sacramento blew out the Lakers scoring 74 points in the first half, and Dallas beat the Lakers by scoring the first 15 points of the game on Sunday night.
The Clippers next game is against the Phoenix Suns, a possible playoff team. Then they face three of the Western Conference powerhouses. The Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, and Memphis Grizzlies were all in the NBA Western Conference playoffs last year.
The Warriors and Clippers have a history and simply do not like each other. At all. They have even refused to attend pregame chapel and prayers with each other. Plus, the Clippers beat the Warriors in the first round of the playoffs in 2014 in a tough seven game series.
The Rockets knocked the Clippers out last year coming back from a 3 -1 deficit to win three games in a row in the 2015 playoffs. The Grizzlies came back from an 0 – 2 deficit by winning four games in a row to send the Clippers home in 2013. Add in the Oklahoma City Thunder’s comeback win in the playoffs in 2014 and the San Antonio Spurs sweep of the Clippers in 2012 and the Clippers have four of the biggest playoff collapses in NBA history.
With an improved bench, the Clippers hope this is the year they can finally advance to the Western Conference Finals, and beyond.