In their last three games, all after the injury to Blake Griffin, the Clippers have defeated Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio, all teams virtually assured of playoff spots, and in the three wins they have been led by the phenomenal play of center DeAndre Jordan. In the three games, Jordan has averaged 22 points per game, on 71% field goal shooting, and 21.7 rebounds per game, along with two blocks and 2.3 steals per game. Jordan led the the NBA in rebounds per game last season pulling down an average of 13.6, and is leading the league again this season with an average of 13.9.
|Attempts by both Houston and the Spurs to play "Hack-A-Jordan" failed in their losses to LA, as Jordan became the first NBA player since Wilt Chamberlain in the 1961-2 season to have 25 or more free throw attempts in consecutive games. Jordan's development continues to be exceptional, and as his importance to the team grows, especially during Griffin's absence, he has clearly established himself as one of the league's premier centers, his ridiculous All-Star game snub aside.||
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In Griffins’ absence, Doc Rivers has chosen to start Spencer Hawes in his place, and Hawes still has not regained his early season consistency since returning from his left knee injury, but Glen “big Baby” Davis has played really well in an expanded sub role behind him. But, even bigger problems lurk in the back court, now that Austin Rivers has suffered an injured ankle. Clippers’ fans should be thankful that rumors of trading Jamal Crawford were just that, rumors, and that the star sixth man is still the Clippers’ go-to guy in the fourth quarter. Against San Antonio, Doc Rivers played only Crawford along with starters Chris Paul and J.J. Redick in the woefully thin back court. Crawford hit five of seven three-pointers on the way to tying Jordan with a Clippers’ game-high 26 points.
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|Dahntay Jones and rookie C.J. Wilcox are the only other guards on the active roster, and their roles have been sitting on the bench and last-minute mop-up in already decided games. It will be difficult enough to survive the short-run without Griffin, but for the long haul, back court help is seriously needed. Yesterday produced an amazing flurry of trades in which somewhere in the neighborhood of two dozen guards changed teams,
but not one of them moved to SoCal and the Clippers’
end of Staples Center.
The Clippers are currently in a pack of five teams whose records are separated by no more than two games. The team with the best record from that group will have no worse than the third best record in the Western Conference, and at lest some degree of home court advantage in the playoffs. The Clippers have the third best record in that group, which puts them only one-half game behind Portland and Houston, who are currently tied. Every game is vital to the Clippers, who could end the regular season with the third best, or even the second best, spot in the conference. But, do they have the depth to make that happen?
Note: Jordan Farmar is still out there.