4. JAMAL CRAWFORD PLAYING ON A TALENTED TEAM
Jamal Crawford finally found his home in Los Angeles. Since becoming a Clipper and playing alongside Chris Paul, Crawford has been playing out of his mind. He’s shooting a career-high 48 percent from the floor and scoring 19.7 points on only 13 shots per game. It’s not like his shot selection is improving – it’s just gotten easier for him to take those shots.
When you pair Jamal Crawford with two of the best screeners in the game, the best point guard in the game, and a wide open offense he’s going to score plenty of points. He’s playing with Blake Griffin and Paul, who are going to always command extra attention from the defense. There’s more than enough space for Jamal Crawford to work, whether that’s on the ball or off of it.
3. THE CLIPPERS’ NEWFOUND DEFENSE
The Clippers were in the bottom half of defensive efficiency last season, placing 18th among the 30 teams in the NBA. Now they’re fifth in defensive efficiency, allowing just 97.6 points per 100 possessions. That’s championship-caliber defense from a team that wasn’t very good at it last season.
We’ve seen vast improvements from Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan on the defensive end this season. Instead of trying to take a swat at everything, Jordan is staying on the ground and keeping his hands straight up in the air. Griffin is working on using his lateral quickness to provide more help defense in the paint and the pick-n-roll.
This is a team that wasn’t really considered a championship contender coming into the year. They’re obviously in the conversation now. The improvement on defense – and showing the capacity to defend a stacked Miami Heat team – have turned me into a believer in this team. Vinny Del Negro has to be thankful for his team’s newfound effort defensively.