For Third Straight Season, Clippers Start Season Slow

Dennis Rogers

Nine games into the 2014-15 season, things haven’t exactly gone to plan so far for the Clippers.

With seven of those first nine games being home games and the other two being road games in California (Lakers and Warriors), the team was hoping to at least be 7-2 at this point. But, the sky isn’t falling on this team and panic has not sunk in with their current 5-4 record.

After all, the Clippers were 6-3 after nine games to start the 2013-14 season, one game off their current mark. Last season, the team won a franchise-high 57 games.

In the 2012-13 season, the team started off 8-6, finishing the season with a then franchise-high 56 wins.

So, the slow start is always some reason for a concern, but not anything new.

It’s about trust. Trust our system, trust our game plans and trust our schemes. That’s what it is.

- Blake Griffin

“We had the same kind of start last season,” guard Jamal Crawford said. “We need to figure it out and I think getting away and getting back with each other on this road trip will be good for us.”

Oftentimes, players bond over road trips and being away as a group, away from their daily routine at home. The Clippers have yet to do that on this young season, a long trip can help shape an identity of a team and build that trust that has been lacking.

“I thought our trust was broken in the Chicago game,” head coach Doc Rivers said. “I thought we all tried to do it individually. That is the old way we played. We had the ball in one spot. We made some miraculous shots, but it is hard to beat a team with great defense that way. That was proved.”

The talent is there for the team, many of the same core players are back. The team had nice early season wins over quality Western Conference teams such as the Phoenix Suns and Portland Trail Blazers. The Blazers have reeled off five straight wins since the Clippers loss.

“It’s about trust,” forward Blake Griffin said about the team’s struggles. “Trust our system, trust our game plans and trust our schemes. That’s what it is.”

On the flip side, the team lost two games in the final minutes to Sacramento and San Antonio, two games which they had comfortable leads in.

“We have got to find a way to close teams out,” guard Chris Paul said. “We have got to believe. We go out there, play and we compete; we have to be better. It is no secret. We have got to find it. We have to play the right way. Hopefully this road trip will help us.”

One major concern right now for the team would be the rebounding deficiency. The team is tied for last in the NBA in rebounds per game with Miami. Last season, the Clippers ranked 13th averaging 43.0 rebounds per game, almost six boards better than this year. That difference looms large when looking at the narrow defeats to Sacramento and San Antonio.

DeAndre Jordan has come up with two big games in a row, pulling down 35 combined rebounds in the last two games. Like last season, Jordan leads the NBA in rebounding. In addition, the team has outrebounded the opponent in two of the last three games.

“If you are getting a lot of stops, there are going to be a lot of rebounds,” Rivers said. “We have to get the stops to be successful and everyone needs to rebound.”

The Clippers rely on an up-tempo offense, leading the NBA in scoring last season. But they’re down to 13th this season, scoring just 101.6 points per contest. Getting stops will lead to rebounds which will in turn lead to getting out and running on the break.

All those will lead to more wins and the Clippers getting back on track. It is still early and the Clippers have been down this road each of the last couple seasons, so they know the recipe to getting back to racking up those wins.

The team embarks on a seven-game road trip today, starting with a tilt against Orlando tomorrow night.

“I like going on the road,” Rivers said. “It’s an opportunity to find yourself.”

Maybe this road trip will just be what the doctor ordered.


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