The Los Angeles Clippers and Lakers are often compared to one another, but despite what record might say, the Clippers have been the better team.
Such hype was indeed justified, considering these two superstar players were joining a roster very similar to the one that pushed a full-strength Golden State team to six games just a few months ago. With that being said, nothing is certain until the ball is thrown up and basketball is being played. In the case of the Clippers, nothing was certain even then.
The Clippers knew they would be without Paul George for at least the first ten games of the season, so any real inferences drawn during that stretch of games would be premature. LAC ended up being without PG’s services for the first eleven games, before he finally returned on November 14th against the Pelicans.
Load management mixed with some bad timing saw Kawhi Leonard sidelined for PG’s first three games as a Clipper. Leonard’s scheduled day off would have been just the game against NOLA, but a knee contusion suffered in the previous game against Houston forced Leonard to miss the next two games as well.
So there the Clippers were, superstar hype through the roof, and through their first fourteen games, that new duo had yet to take the floor together.
Since then, LAC has gone unbeaten in the four games Kawhi and Paul George have played together. The wins have been impressive, coming over the Celtics, Rockets, Pelicans, and Mavs. At the time of the Boston game, they held the best record in the East and had the Clippers on the ropes for much of the game.
The Houston game was similar in the way that the Rockets seemed to have enough control of the game in order to get a win, just to get overmatched by late-game heroics.
The Pelicans win, although not against the same tier of talent, was just as impressive as the previous two. In a game where Kawhi and PG combined for 44 points on just 33% from the field, it was the other LAC duo that came up big. Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell went for 53 points on 66% shooting in a 25-point W for the Clippers.
The win over the Mavs was the first time we have actually seen what this Clippers team is capable of. All of the talk entering the matchup was surrounding Luka Doncic and the #1 offense he had the Mavs rolling with.
The Clippers responded to those talks in a big way, holding Dallas to 38% from the field, 29% from distance, and forcing 20 turnovers. Luka Doncic was held to just 4/14 from the field and 0/8 from distance.
The defense of the Clippers is for real, and it’s only the fourth game with it intact. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of that big win over Dallas was that once again neither Kawhi nor PG broke 30 minutes.
In 29 Minutes, Kawhi had 28 points, eight rebounds, four assists, and a steal. In 29 minutes, PG logged 26 points, four rebounds, a pair of assists, and six steals! That stat line from PG was only one of two of its kind in the last 10 years.
The only players in the last 10 years to put up 26+ points and 6+ steals in under 30 minutes played are Paul George last night, and Kawhi Leonard on 4/5/15 against GS, per the Clippers.
With the Clippers only having four games under their belt in which Kawhi and PG graced the court together, what conclusions can be made at this point? The answer: Nothing has changed. From the pre-season predictions that had the Clippers head and shoulders above the competition, to where they currently sit, their play to this point has done nothing but corroborate those early claims.
In fact, it is quite obvious to this point that the Los Angeles Clippers have been the NBA’s most impressive team. Sitting at 13-5, the Clippers have the third-most wins in the NBA, which obviously draws obligation from those top-two teams when LAC is regarded as the best among them.
However, this isn’t hard. The two teams with more wins than the Clippers are the Bucks and Lakers. Milwaukee sits atop the Eastern Conference, with the Lakers atop the West. With the East so often downplayed as a product of the lack of competition, the conversation for NBA’s best team to begin this 2019-20 season has most commonly surrounded the Lakers due to their 15-2 start.
The argument made for the Lakers being the NBA’s best team looks solely at the record and nothing else. With the season being so young, there are multiple factors that must be analyzed when looking at such a thing. Let’s take a look at them: