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The joy is almost over for entertaining Clippers team


In recent years, the Los Angeles Clippers have survived extended absences from either Blake Griffin or Chris Paul.

After trading both away, the Clippers have surprisingly remained competitive with an outside shot at making the postseason.

Few teams have ever lost such star power without completely imploding in the very same season. The Denver Nuggets and the Carmelo Anthony trade is the last that comes to mind.

If trading Chris Paul was the start, shipping Blake Griffin to the Detroit Pistons seemed like the finish.

Los Angeles did receive Tobias Harris, who got off to a hot start in Detroit early this season. In 11 games with the Clippers, Harris has averaged 18.4 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 3.2 assists per game.

Shooting 47.2 percent from the field, including 41.8 percent from deep, Harris has become a stable scoring punch for a high-octane offense. In Harris’ 11 games, the Clippers have a 111.5 offensive rating, according to NBA.com. That’s good for the eighth best offense in the league over that time.

Lou Williams’ contract extension may have been scrutinized, but it’s been a key move in maintaining the Clippers’ competitive play.

Right now, the Clippers are just outside of the playoffs, tied with the Denver Nuggets in the loss column and down two wins. They’ll also have to fend off the surging Utah Jazz, who are 8-2 over their past 10 games.

What may push the Clippers above Denver and Utah is their balanced rotation. Since the trade, every Clippers’ player is a net positive, per NBA.com. The team has gotten an excellent push from guys like Montrezl Harrell, Milos Teodosic, and Boban Marjanovic. The Clippers are getting back to being healthy, which has escaped them for a good portion of the season. It also helps to to have a reinvigorated Doc Rivers.

The Clippers are running at the sixth highest pace in the league while shooting the ninth best effective field goal percentage. Rivers has done a majestic job of turning a team full of “role players” into a solid force on offense.

The Clippers have been surprisingly fun. Unfortunately, their backloaded schedule probably dooms from having any chance of staying above water.

Sixteen of their last 21 games are against playoff-caliber teams. This includes an eight-game stretch against the Milwaukee Bucks (twice), Houston Rockets, Oklahoma City Thunder, Portland Trail Blazers, Minnesota Timberwolves, Indiana Pacers, and Toronto Raptors.

Four of those teams rank in the top 10 in offensive rating. The Clippers are currently 17th in the NBA in defensive rating, allowing 106.4 points per 100 possessions. The addition of Avery Bradley has helped, though he hasn’t been the same force along the perimeter as he was in his Boston days.

Despite not losing consecutive games since Jan. 24, the Clippers have failed to create any solid footholds in the race or the eighth seed. That streak is likely to end soon, along with the Clippers’ six-year playoff run.