Clippers Update. I don't see what the big deal is, it's not like the Clippers have some incredible winning streak, they just lost to Denver a week ago! What's that, the loss was on the road on the second night of a back-to-back? And they had won eleven in a row before that? Ummm...
Honestly, outside of the mechanical monster in San Antonio, it's hard to find a team playing better right now than the Clippers. A dynamo on offense since the arrival of Chris Paul, the Clippers have worked their way into the top ten in defensive efficiency as well, holding opponents to the fifth-lowest eFG% and turning them over at a top-ten rate. Strangely enough, despite the presence of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, the Clippers' most glaring weakness might be rebounding: they're in the NBA's bottom third in both defensive and offensive rebound rates. That hasn't kept LA from boosting their record to 28 games over .500, or outscoring their opponents by the second-highest margin in the league (7.17 per game).
Great Blake. The Clippers have six regulars with above-average PERs, led by Chris Paul at 26.2, but in the eyes of many, Blake Griffin has been the chief architect of success for LA this season. When Paul went down with an injury and missed most of the month of January, Griffin helped the team stay afloat, guiding them to wins in 12 of 18 games. During that stretch, Griffin averaged 27.5 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 4.4 assists while shooting over 55% from the field, hopefully killing off the "all he does is dunk" trope once and for all. While his rebounding numbers are slightly off of his career levels, he's scoring more, and more efficiently, than ever before.
Western Woes. Milwaukee's offense continues to hum along during their strange second-half surge, but the defense manages to amaze in its ineptitude night after night. The Bucks have given up over 100 points in 19 of their last 21 games and watched their defensive rating balloon to an NBA-worst 111.2. Against Western Conference opponents, Milwaukee sports a 102.3 offensive rating and a 113.6 defensive rating. That sneaky-good offense has kept some recent games close, in turn boosting their expected winning percentage by a very small amount, but the losses continue to pile up. In other words, #stealthtank.
Lowfat Mayo. Are we still making weight jokes about O.J. Mayo? Forced into service thanks to Nate Wolters' broken hand, Mayo took the court for the first time in almost two weeks and...well, actually played pretty well. Mayo dropped 21 points in a team-high 28 minutes, hitting 9 of his 14 shots (2-6 3PT) and recording four assists. Granted, the Kings had essentially put the game away after the first 12 minutes and their defense is awful, but still! Mayo isn't going to earn more minutes than Brandon Knight most of the time, but with little in the way of true guard depth behind Knight and Ramon Sessions, Mayo's going to have the opportunity to get his shots up, and rest assured, he will. It's unlikely he'll play well enough to give the Bucks a decent shot at dumping his salary this summer, but it wold be nice to at least be able to view his contract as more than sunk cost.
Starting Giannis All Over Again. With Wolters out of commission, Sessions pigeonholed into a bench role, and Mayo only just reentering the rotation, Giannis Antetokounmpo got the start as the nominal shooting guard. As Frank wrote in yesterday's recap, Giannis struggled with his shooting and foul trouble but delivered the usual highlights in garbage time. The Bucks tried him out in the post against the smaller Ben McLemore early on, which got him a layup attempt (missed). He also showed good instincts with the ball in the first quarter, dumping a pair of interior passes to Zaza Pachulia, who failed to pay off one assist while Giannis committed an offensive foul on the other. The execution was obviously lacking, but the ideas were good. Hard to say if Giannis will stick as the starting 2 (maintaining a consistent starting lineup is a very difficult thing to bet on these days), and Mayo would seem like the best bet to replace him. Giannis was averaging about 25 minutes per game off the bench and played 23 against Sacramento, so generally speaking there isn't much difference.
UPDATE: In order to better match up with the Clippers' small backcourt, Drew is starting Knight and Sessions, while Jeff Adrien gets the task of matching up with Griffin.
SIXERSWATCH. Next up for Philadelphia in the Great Tank-Off 2014? The San Antonio Spurs, who in their last game rested Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili on the road against the Warriors AND STILL WON. So, um, this will probably not be a night where the Bucks extend their lead.