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The Clippers Are a Total Mess

After trading Chris Paul, it seemed likely that the team would decline, but injuries and confusion have caused Los Angeles to dip lower than expected

Los Angeles Clippers v New York Knicks Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

A fast-break dunk. A pull-up 3 from the wing. A steal from Kristaps Porzingis.

Blake Griffin completed the three feats like he was playing in a video game on its lowest difficulty. From the very beginning of Monday’s matchup with the Knicks, the blueprint to dominate at the Garden was spread across the floor.

During that first quarter, L.A.’s bench rose up after every made shot, and Griffin looked determined, attacking the basket and laying out for every rebound. But this success was short-lived. Griffin made only one field goal in the second half, and fouled out with 4:46 remaining after receiving a technical foul. Porzingis dropped 25 points and the Knicks blew out the Clippers, 107-85, giving them their ninth straight loss.

In the words of the “pissed off” Patrick Beverley, the Clippers “took another ‘L.’”

“Bottom line, we just can’t sustain anything,” Doc Rivers said after the game. “We get it going a little bit and one thing happens and it just implodes.”

This is rock bottom for the Clippers, and the losing streak has made them, or at least one of them, quite upset.

“This ... feels like 100 losses,” Beverley told the L.A. Times. “Straight up. This ... is weak. This ain’t how I roll. That ain’t OK and I won’t allow it to be OK as long as I’m here. That’s a fact.”

This season, the Clippers’ offensive rating is 12th in the league, but their defense falls among the bottom 10 teams. Last season, L.A. was a top-5 offensive squad and was 12th on defense. But the biggest problems for L.A. seem to stem from passing. Before the season, when the Clippers introduced their new additions, Doc brought out a side of shade, raising eyebrows by claiming that the team would move the ball more this year without CP3.

Sixteen games in, that’s not looking to be the case.

Even though the Clippers average over 300 passes a game, L.A. has the third-worst assist percentage and assist ratio, as well as the fifth-worst assist-to-turnover ratio. Their 38.1 potential assist mark is the second-worst in the league ahead of only the Memphis Grizzlies.

This season was projected to be Griffin’s breakout as the main figure and facilitator on the Clippers. “Point Blake” was a blogger’s fever dream, an attainable offensive idea that would allow the Clippers to thrive in the modern NBA. But so far, Griffin is being asked to carry too much of the load (he has a team-high 29.4 percent usage rate, up from 27.8 last season) and hasn’t been able to spread the Clippers’ production around equally.

And for as much as Griffin can and will facilitate, without the proper system (see: Doc) or point guard, it appears every piece on the Clippers is just slightly out of place.

On defense, DeAndre Jordan has regressed. Jordan is amassing only 8.6 defensive rebounds per game this season, two fewer than last season, and his lowest average since 2013. His 1.1 blocks per game is his lowest average since his second season, and his block percentage of 3.0 is his lowest ever. And, of course, it continues to be difficult for Jordan to make his free throws (58 percent). To top it off, the Clippers have been undercut by injuries: The team’s opening starting five has played only one full game together.

Milos Teodosic, who was giving the team some fluid rhythm at the point guard position, has been out since the first week. Danilo Gallinari is inactive with a glute injury, and even though Beverley returned to the court on Monday after missing five games with a sore knee, he had more of an impact in postgame interviews than he did on the floor.

“I don’t think we’re very mature enough yet,” he said. “... We too cool. We come in this game, we come on the court like people are supposed to back down because of the name on the back of our jerseys and that’s not the case.”

Before the season, “If they stay healthy” was the key caveat used to describe the roster. The Clippers crashing and burning without their future–Hall of Fame facilitator was a real possibility—they should have been a below-average team in the loaded West. But now, they are even worse than we imagined.

The question now is: How low can it go? And how much longer will Doc be allowed to stay?