The Los Angeles Clippers have, as happens so often in the NBA regular season, ridden a bit of a roller coaster through the first 40 games to a 25-15 record, good for fourth in the West. There was a stretch where they looked like one of the NBA’s very best, shooting the lights out and playing the elite defense they are capable of, running out to a 21-8 record. However, in their last 11 games they’ve stumbled at 4-7, not winning back-to-back games once in that stretch.
There have been absences that have accounted for some of their struggles and wins that show what they’re capable of, like beating the, at the time, red-hot Jazz and demolishing the Warriors coming out of the All-Star break. But too often they backed those performances up with no-shows, best illustrated by Sunday night’s pitiful showing against the Pelicans, at mostly full strength, in a 135-115 loss.
After Sunday’s loss, Kawhi Leonard was asked about his level of concern over this recent stretch, and expressed frustration with the lack of consistency the team has showed, via Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.
“It’s very concerning,” Leonard said when asked what his level of concern is at over the slippage. “[If] we want to have a chance at anything, you gotta be consistent. You know, that’s what the great teams do, they’re consistent. They have their nights when, you know, the energy’s not there. But it’s all about consistency, from teams to players to coaches. That’s what makes a team great, players great, coaches great. A consistency of being, wanting to win, and doing pretty much the same habits of winning.”
Tyronn Lue echoed those sentiments, while also lamenting the team’s lack of physicality and how they allowed the Pelicans and Zion Williamson to steamroll them and dominate inside.
“I am not discouraged, because we have shown what we can do, and we can play at a high level,” Lue said. “But we got to do it every single night. We can’t keep talking about it. We got to f—ing … sorry, we got to do it.”
These aren’t issues unique to the Clippers, as top contenders often fall into spells of inconsistent play in the middle of the season as they struggle to get up for games against teams in the middle and bottom of the pack, who see a game with them as a chance to prove something. Matching that intensity on a nightly basis is among the toughest challenges in the NBA, but finding some motivation in a 4-7 stretch for a team with title aspirations also shouldn’t be too difficult. The question isn’t just whether they respond in their next game against a Mavs team that beat them by 50 the last time they played, but if they can stack some wins behind that. That’s at the crux of Leonard and Lue’s complaints, because this isn’t a team that’s proven it just has a switch to flip come playoff time. They need to find that consistency in the coming months and carry that through the playoffs, or else they’re in for another offseason being the butt of jokes and overrated talk.