The first place Los Angeles Clippers starting lineup is absolutely phenomenal offensively. This group led by Chris Paul and Blake Griffin is putting up 114 points per-100 possessions. The team’s success does not end there however. Their secret sauce has been the second squad and their all-world defense.
When the starters are getting a breather the Clippers less heralded second string are maximizing their opportunities. The ‘back-up 5′ are so good that according to 82games.com this unit would win 56 games over a full season.
Vinny Del Negro has to get credit for limiting the minutes of his two best players and saving their legs for the playoffs. Blake and CP3 play ~32 minutes/game which offers ample time for back-ups like Eric Bledsoe, Matt Barnes and Jamal Crawford to shine.
Crawford and Barnes are neck-and-neck for the NBA 6th man of the year award. Any team in the league would kill to have a lock-down combo guard like Bledsoe as their 8th man. In fact, most of the value of the Clippers second unit lies in their defense. Their offensive game is not on par with the starters (back-ups average 106 PTS/100) but they allow a minuscule 91 PTS/opponents 100 possessions. This effort sustained over a full season would make a team of Clippers ‘back-up 5′ the very best defense in the league.
What makes these guys so effective on D? Simple, opponents miss a lot of shots against this unit. The Clippers starters allow 48% eFG (the NBA average is 49%). The best team defense in the league is the Pacers and they allow 45% eFG. LAC is not to be outdone, their 2nd unit holds opponents to 38% eFG.
In addition to the three wings highlighted above, Lamar Odom and especially Ronny Turiaf are aggravating opposing bigs into taking uncomfortable shots or simply swatting their attempts into the stands. Odom’s 1.7 BLK/36 mins is a career high.
The Clippers franchise is playing their best defense since they were coached by Dr. Jack Ramsay and called the Buffalo Braves. Their second unit is a huge reason, and they deserve more credit for their contribution to the Clippers awesome first half of the 2013 season.
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