Most times in music, when a band loses their lead singer, the rest of the group falls apart. Similarly in the NBA, if a team’s point guard is the leader and the team loses him, they are likely to fall apart. Just ask the Los Angeles Clippers and how they’ve fared without Chris Paul over the past five games.
Paul has been out over the five-game stretch with what is being called a bruised kneecap. In those five games, the Clippers are a meager 2-3. Even in their win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Thursday, Paul’s absence was still felt.
Though they had an obvious talent advantage over the Kevin Love-less T’Wolves, the Clippers were unable to distance themselves and allowed their opponent to stay within range. This was largely because of the play of Eric Bledsoe, Paul’s replacement in the starting lineup. On the night, Bledsoe scored 10 points and dished out 10 assists, but also turned the ball over a game-high five times and shot a putrid 21.4 percent from the field.
In the fourth quarter, a time when Paul normally excels and takes over the game, Bledsoe seemed frazzled at times by the close-game situation. He didn’t seem to be in control of the game or his team, two things that are never in question when Paul is on the floor.
There is no denying Bledsoe’s athletic gifts, but he’s not the floor-general and clutch player that Paul is. Subsequently, he’s not going to be able to replace Paul, which has been evident. On the season, Paul is averaging 16.6 points and 9.7 assists per game on 47.3 percent shooting. In Bledsoe’s five starts with Paul injured, the backup is averaging only 11.6 points and 5.4 assists per game, all while shooting a terrible 34.4 percent from the field. That’s also in more minutes per game than Paul averages.
That’s not going to cut it. The production is slipping. The leadership isn’t the same. Bledsoe doesn’t have the cool demeanor that Paul does in clutch situation and it’s showing for the Clippers over this short stretch.
If they want to continue to be a contender and a force in the Western Conference and the Association, they are going to need to get Paul back sooner rather than later. The band is playing and they need Paul singing.