The LA Clippers face a prolonged period of trying to keep their heads above water.
Sitting fifth in the Western Conference with a 17-16 record, the Clippers are just 3.5 games ahead of the Portland Trail Blazers in 11th place.
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Given the qualifying jam, the Clippers were already without Kawhi Leonard and now face the next few weeks without Paul George in the lineup.
Let’s take a look at how we got here and what’s next for Ty Lue’s team.
Leonard’s return is, unsurprisingly, a mystery.
Suffering a partially torn ACL during the 2023 NBA Playoffs, there has been little news of a possible comeback time for Leonard, and history suggests there will be no rush to get back on the court.
Leonard, who underwent surgery to repair the ligament on July 13, is in a race against time, with the usual recovery window of 9 to 12 months for an anterior cruciate ligament tear leaving him little time to return. before the postseason begins. The April 16 start date comes in just over the 10-month mark since the surgery.
MORE: How long will Paul George be out?
As for George, it was revealed on Christmas Day that he would be sidelined with an elbow injury and reevaluated in three to four weeks.
Averaging 24.7 points, 7.1 rebounds and 5.5 assists on the season, George has been the key driver for the Clippers who remain in the playoffs image.
RT to vote or visit ➡️ https://t.co/QWOBIWjycW pic.twitter.com/bLhy1lgj0f
– LA Clippers (@LAClippers) December 28, 2023
Following a loss to the Denver Nuggets on December 26, the Clippers now face a nine-game streak in which they will face the highly anticipated playoff teams in Brooklyn twice, Boston, Phoenix, Memphis, Atlanta and Denver.
|December 27||against networks||10:30 pm|
|December 29||in the celtics||7:30 pm|
|December 31st||in Raptors||7:30 pm|
|January 1||in the networks||7:30 pm|
|January 3||against Timberwolves||10:30 pm|
|January 6th||in the suns||10:00 pm|
|January the 8th||against Grizzlies||3:30 pm|
|January 9th||against hawks||3:30 pm|
|January 11||against nuggets||10:30 pm|
Who will intervene in the absence of Paul George?
Against Denver, it was Luke Kennard who made the starting lineup.
Kennard is averaging 11.6 points and 3.5 rebounds on the season while connecting 44.3 percent of his attempts from long range. The 25-year-old signed a long-term contract with the franchise before the 2020-21 season before finding himself in and out of the rotation last year. He has seen his minutes per game increase from 19.6 to 28.6 so far this season.
Kennard ended the loss to Denver with eight points on 3-of-10 shooting in just 17 minutes of court time.
LA will get a welcome boost in the coming days, with Reggie Jackson and Marcus Morris waiting to be removed from the league’s health and safety protocols.
– LA Clippers (@LAClippers) December 27, 2023
Jackson, in particular, is expected to take some of the offensive slack with PG out of the lineup, with the point guard still struggling to find the form that saw him take center stage in many important moments during the Clippers’ postseason last year. . .
After averaging 17.8 points in 48/40/87 shooting divisions during the playoffs, Jackson has scored 17.2 points on declining 39/32/80 percentages in 31 regular season appearances so far in 2023-22.
It’s the defensive end that’s intriguing though, as the Clippers are currently fourth in defensive efficiency in the entire league with a defensive rating of 105.3.
Holding out without PG (via NBA.com)
|On the court (924 minutes)||105.8||104.5||+1.3|
|Off the pitch (655 minutes)||103.9||103.9||0.0|
Impressively, the Clippers have been able to survive in non-George minutes, with the team just 1.3 points per 100 worst possessions without the All-Star wing in 2023-22, notably giving up fewer points without George in the 655 minutes that he has. condition. off the floor.
Softening the blow could be George’s absence from the middle of the league being heavily impacted by COVID, with nearly every team in the league losing a series of stars. With Ivica Zubac handling the paint and Eric Bledsoe a stable point guard option, the Clippers should still be able to remain competitive on that end of the floor. Morris and veteran Nic Batum provide versatility on the wing, even if they don’t have the dynamic defensive strength that George can be at this point in their respective careers.
The next few weeks are sure to present a challenge for the Clippers, but with a team not looking to make a move in the middle group, basketball at .500 is an achievable goal that should leave the Clippers in the postseason mix if George can make it. a healthy return in a month.