‘Offense and defense perfect’ Clippers are unbeatable

Clippers put on a show.

The Los Angeles Clippers defeated the New Orleans Pelicans 111-95 in the 2023-2024 NBA regular season at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA, on Saturday night.

It was a perfect win. The Clippers got an even performance from Paul George with 24 points and seven rebounds, Kawhi Leonard with 19 points and nine rebounds, James Harden with eight points and 13 assists, and Norman Powell with 13 points and two assists.

The Clippers’ recent momentum is scary. The Clippers have gone an impressive 14-2 in their last 16 games and are now sitting in fourth place in the Western Conference. Only three games separate them from the first-place Minnesota Timberwolves. That’s plenty of room to look higher.

The Clippers made the James Harden trade a week after the season started. This is something that doesn’t happen very often in the NBA. In the NBA, trades are most often made at the trade deadline, before the season starts. It’s extremely rare to see a big trade early in the season.

The Clippers had been pursuing Harden all summer, and he wanted to join his hometown team, a team that was nearing a championship, but Harden’s former team, the Philadelphia 76ers, were reluctant to let him go and stalled. Eventually, the owners of the two teams came to an agreement, and Harden made the move.

Shortly after joining the Clippers, Harden’s performance was poor. He was new to the team and had issues with his role assignment. However, after Russell Westbrook’s voluntary benching, he seamlessly integrated into the offense. With Harden assembling the offense and George, Leonard, and Powell running the show, it’s an efficient offense.

Where the Clippers have been surprising lately is on defense, not offense. By trading for Harden, the Clippers sent Philadelphia a bunch of forward resources that were key to their defense, including Marcus Morris Sr, Robert Covington, and Nicolas Batum.

George and Leonard are great offensive players who can also defend, but it’s the shooting that’s worrisome, as they sent away a lot of players who were used to playing defense and doing the dirty work. But it was all a fluke.

With Harden in charge of assembling the offense, it took a lot of pressure off of Leonard and George, and it showed on defense. With George and Leonard on the defensive end, the Clippers’ frontcourt defense has tightened up, with Westbrook, Powell, and Terrence Mann making an impact up front. Harden is more than capable of holding his own on defense. The perimeter defense is also solid with Ivica Zubac and Daniel Theis.

Lately, the Clippers have been playing so strong defensively that it’s almost as if their defense is more important than their offense. They haven’t given up more than 130 points in any of their last 16 games, with the only losses coming against the Oklahoma City Thunder and Boston Celtics. There have been three games of 100 points or less.

The Clippers are on such a roll right now that it’s hard to see any team stopping them. It’s almost as if the team has no weaknesses. They don’t have a point guard, a forward, or a big man. The starting lineup of Harden, Powell, George, Leonard, and Zubac is terrifying. Whether it’s George, who has been consistent, Harden, or Leonard, who is in top form, this is arguably the most potent big three in the NBA right now.

The only concern for the Clippers is injury. Together, they’re formidable, but if one of them goes down with an injury, their power plummets. George and Leonard, in particular, suffered major injuries last season that took them out of the game at crucial moments. Staying healthy is essential if the Clippers are to challenge for the title.

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