LOS ANGELES -- At the moment, the Los Angeles Clippers seem to be a team lacking in gravitas. And the understated fact that a Clippers star is out of orbit is part of the issue.
Blake Griffin has been out since tearing his left quadriceps tendon on Dec. 25 and L.A. has rattled off a 25-10 record without the five-time All-star, fifth best in the league over that span. It was an impressive enough display that many openly questioned whether the Clippers were actually better without Griffin.
Those casual discussions are all over now, Los Angeles having just been dealt its worst loss of the season, a 24-point waxing at the hands of the defending East champions Cleveland Cavaliers, 114-90. "We never responded," Chris Paul said after the game. "I think they were pretty much comfortable all game long."
"[Playing without Blake] gets real tough. [The Cavs] have three, four guys out there that [in a] low shot clock can bail you out," Paul continued. "Just all that tension that he brings opens it up for all of us."
L.A. can create a reasonable facsimile of components to the high-flyer's game. Paul Pierce and Wes Johnson can pop in pick-and-rolls, maybe to an advantage with their ability to stretch to the 3-point line. And DeAndre Jordan can replicate the hard rolls to the rim and Lob City showmanship.
But the area where the Clippers' crushing offense falters is in playmaking. Before today's game, Paul's assist percentage had ballooned from 46.9 percent before Griffin's injury to 54.1 percent, despite only an uptick of 3 percent in usage percentage. Simply put, if Paul isn't creating the offense for a teammate, chances are no one is.
And as great as Paul is, elite teams can only be so uncomfortable under the gravitational pull of a single star -- partly the reason why Los Angeles is just 2-10 against teams with plus-.600 win percentage.
"I mean, [the Cavs are] looking at us right now thinking 'Please make it to the Finals' because they're comfortable against us," coach Doc Rivers responded after losing to a LeBron James-led team for the seventh straight time. "And we would say 'We'd love to meet you there. We really would.'"
Those sort of dreams do not crack the horizon right now, though. Not until L.A. can remedy its gravitas problem with more gravity.