Clippers Just Keep Rolling
They’ve won 7 of their 12-straight by double-digits, posted 100-plus points in all but 4, and hold a 3-game divisional lead over the 2nd place Warriors (7.5 games over the Lakers).
Though last year’s 4-game sweep at the hands of the veteran Spurs wasn’t too inspiring, this year’s team has another year of experience under their belts. At 20-6 so far this season, they hold the second best win percentage in the NBA and at a time when the Western Conference is in the midst of a sort of transitional period, why not consider the Clippers one of the top candidates to represent the West in the Finals?
They have one of the league’s most balanced starting lineups and an extremely active bench to add support. There’s no question the talent is there to make a deep playoff run, it’s really just a question of leadership and delivery when the most important time comes. And that most directly targets the team’s two most important players: Chris Paul and Blake Griffin.
Paul had a great first season with the Clippers but when the Spurs came along, he was frustrated by Tony Parker’s pesky defense, which led to 18 turnovers across the 4 games, and the Clippers as a whole suffered greatly from Paul’s untimely miscues and poor shooting performance (shot under 30% from the field twice, and never over 50%). As one of the league’s top point guards, Paul needs to be the catalyst of a deep playoff run for the Clippers. He’s not the same scorer he used to be – part because he has teammates that can take a lot of the scoring load away from him – but when the playoffs come around, he’ll need to be that guy that makes the big shots when the team is struggling, come through with the big plays during the biggest moments.
And then there’s Griffin. He’s one of the league’s most talented players, no questions asked, but he still has a lot to prove to earn the label of one of the league’s best overall players. He’s gotten better at creating shots for himself, but put him up against a frontcourt of Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins for a 7-game series and I’d definitely have some concerns still at this point. Though he racked up 23 points on 9-16 shooting against the Thunder in their lone meeting so far this season, playoffs are a different question. The Spurs held him under 50% field goals in 3 of their 4 playoff games last year and even held him off the boards pretty well – only recorded 1 rebound in his 36 minutes of game 2. The growth is still very much a question, but if it is answered, the Clippers could have one of the highest upsides in the West.
How far will they go?