LOS ANGELES — The Clippers are absolutely rolling. With Saturday’s victory against the Knicks, they are now in the thick of the Western Conference standings. Kawhi Leonard poured in 36 points and Paul George returned from injury to score 25 of his own en route to a blowout of New York.
The Clippers are now 15-10 and 6th in the Western Conference.
Here are my three takeaways:
Put his stats up against anybody that is playing right now and you can see why I say that he is playing like a top 5 player in the NBA. In his last 5 games, Leonard has 169 points in 177 minutes on 65.5% field goal percentage, while also playing All-NBA defense. This is a complete return to form for Kawhi, who is now a year and a half removed from his ACL injury, and looking the healthiest and most spry he’s looked since the 2021 Western Conference Finals run.
He also hasn’t played this many games in a row since the 2016-2017 season, which is a big reason as to why the Clippers are firing on all cylinders this year. As long as he maintains his health and laser focus, this team has the ability to continue this streak and make some noise in the conference.
The Clippers have a top rated defense in the league by all metrics, and in this 15 game stretch, they are number 5 in overall defensive rating. While the offense has gotten much better during this streak, it is really the defense that is carrying them to most of these wins. Although teams are putting up decent numbers as of late, the ability to create turnovers and get crucial stops in clutch time has been huge for this turnaround.
Even James Harden has been sensational at reading passing lanes and getting steals and blocks in the paint. This entire team has bought into what Ty Lue and the coaching staff wanted to do in training camp: be a top 10 defense in the league. This team has always had the talent to play this well defensively and now we are seeing the intensity and mentality come to fruition.
When Paul George missed the second half of the Clippers blowout win against Sacramento, there was a bit of concern as usual from the fans. However, with this team on such a roll, they inserted Amir Coffey into the starting lineup and he produced an excellent game. He poured in 18 points against the Warriors and was solid on defense with hustle and smart play, which has now earned him more minutes in the rotation. Although this means that Kobe Brown will be out of the rotation for now, Coffey has definitely earned more minutes off the bench with Paul George back. It just goes to show the “always ready” and “next man up” mentality from this team.
Ivica Zubac has been another revelation for this team. He and James Harden have absolutely found the right groove and have been cooking opposing defenses. The biggest factor is Zubac’s defense and rim protection. He is near the top of the league in blocks and protection around the paint, which give the perimeter defenders more leeway and freedom when guarding the pick and roll and closing out. He is absolutely a cornerstone of this team.
The Clippers now face a tough road trip, and start with the Indiana Pacers. Tip-off in Indiana is set for 4:00 PM PST Monday.