The Los Angeles Clippers started the 2013-14 NBA season looking like one of the better teams in the league. At the end of November, the Clips sat with a solid 12-5 record and, though they had been plagued by a bit of inconsistency, not many teams had looked better than the Clippers when they were firing on all cylinders.
However, things have started to change a bit for the Clippers. In December, the team has shown some changes in their style of play and has had varying degrees of success in doing so, as the team sits at 6-4 for the month heading into Saturday night.
Through their first 10 games of this month, the Clippers have been a much sounder defensive team. In November, the Clips were middle-of-the-pack in terms of defensive efficiency, allowing 101.6 points per 100 possessions. In December, though, the team has seen that number dip in their favor to a mere 97 points per 100 possessions, making them the best defensive team in the league so far in the month of December.
However, their defensive efficiency isn’t the only change as their offense has seen some fluctuation as well. While the Clippers ranked fourth in the NBA in November at 107.7 points per 100 possessions, that number has fallen 104 points per 100 possessions. Sure, the net rating has only changed by 0.9 points per 100 possessions, but that’s a drastic difference in the style of play.
One thing that has been evident with the Clippers is that they are looking a bit more methodical in the month of December. With Chris Paul, a point guard that ideally wants to work in the halfcourt, seeing his usage rate rise 2.7 percent, the Clippers have seen their pace drop by more than a possession per game. Sure, Paul’s numbers indicate that they play at a faster pace with him on the floor, but even those on/off court numbers in terms of pace have dipped.
While they are just 6-4 in December, the move to slow things up—even if it is just a slight change—is a wise one for L.A. This allows them to be a better defensive team and get set up rather than trying to outscore opponents. Though it’s fun to see “Lob City” put up highlights and big numbers, having a stingier defense paints a better picture in terms of long-term and postseason success. It remains to be seen if the Clips will sustain this change in pace and defensive efficiency, but if they do, they could be even more dangerous than before.