The Clippers Defense Is Starting to Take Shape

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Photo by Paul!!! via Flickr

It would have been understandable if the Clippers suffered a letdown at home against the New Orleans Pelicans. They capitalized on the San Antonio Spurs 22 turnovers on Monday night to run away with a 115-92 win.

There was no letdown by the Clippers as they suffocated the Pelicans in the second half in their 108-95 win.

Watching the Clippers play is a bit of an adventure. It's hard to tell which team will show up. Of course, it doesn't help that JJ Redick has been out with a torn ligament in his right wrist since Dec. 1. Matt Barnes was available off the bench for the first time since Nov. 20 after tearing the retina in his left eye, although he did not play.

There was that great effort against the Spurs on Monday, but then there were puzzling losses to the Atlanta Hawks, Cleveland Cavaliers and Brooklyn Nets on their recent seven-game road trip.

Watching the Clippers play the last two games, it's apparent that something is different. Early in the season they were an awful defensive team,especially on the perimeter. Until Nov. 18 the Clippers had the sixth-worst field goal percentage allowed on shots from 20 to 24 feet (38.6%) and third worst on shots from 25 to 29 feet (37.6%). Since Nov. 19 the Clippers are second-best from 20 to 24 feet (32.2%) and league-best from 25 to 29 feet (24.5%).

It seems like Doc Rivers' defense is starting to take hold.

With a seven-point halftime lead, the Clippers came out defensively holding the Pelicans to 32% shooting in the third quarter with Ryan Anderson missing all three three-point attempts.

Blake Griffin took over on offense with 13 points in that quarter including two slam dunks that caused the Pelicans defense to part like the Red Sea. Griffin ended with 21 points, 10 rebounds and five assists before fouling out with about four minutes left in the game.

DeAndre Jordan also had a huge double-double with 14 points and 20 rebounds while Chris Paul had a quiet 12 points and 11 assists.

Anyone can say that the Clippers are not a championship-caliber team right now, but who cares? The season is not over tomorrow.

Admittedly, I'm not sure the Clippers are on the same level as the Indiana Pacers, Miami Heat, San Antonio Spurs, Portland Trail Blazers or Oklahoma City Thunder. But the fortunate thing is that they have time to work themselves up there.

Here's a stat that makes no sense: the Clippers are 12-3 against Western Conference opponents and only 6-6 against the East. The Sacramento Kings and Utah Jazz are the only West teams that have losing records against the East. Go figure.