Are the Clippers Contenders?
Without hesitation. They were riding a massive win-streak, hadn't lost a single game in the month of December and had already defeated the Heat, Grizzlies, Lakers and the Spurs twice. Who could doubt a team that had Chris Paul leading the break on what seemed like every time the Clippers held possession? Not one person, other than every Lakers fan, thought the Clippers streak was a flash in the pan.
Well, injuries and inconsistencies have derailed the squad late in the season as they lost their firm grip on the third seed with the Denver Nuggets and Memphis Grizzlies getting hot. The Clippers haven't defeated a quality playoff team since late January and have been living and dying by hero ball. Too often, the Clippers run pathetic offensive schemes with minimal ball movement, forcing either Paul or Blake Griffin to make a last-ditch effort with the shot clock winding down.
The Clippers depend solely on their skill instead of their wit because there is a lack of consistency in games of high magnitude. Too often the Clippers opponents establish an early double-digit lead and physical presence, which is met with little, if any, resistance. Coaching might be the easy bailout in this article, but it isn't all coaching. Vinny is still relatively new to the coaching game - having only coached two years in Chicago prior to his stint in Los Angeles.
The players have no sense of urgency when they play top competition for the full 48 minutes and expect to rely solely on their ability to put up points in a short amount of time. Usually it is too little too late. Take last Friday night for example; the Clippers starting unit was unable to compete whatsoever with the Indiana Pacers at Staples Center - where they had only suffered defeat 7 times throughout the season, and fell down by 24 points in the third quarter.
Had it not been for the instant impact and energy that Eric Bledsoe and Matt barnes provide in extended minutes, the Clippers would have been blown out of their own building. Instead? They come all the way back to eventually fall by a score of 109-106, falling into the 5th seed in the West, now needing a near-perfect end of the season run to ensure they have home-court in their first round matchup.
It should hurt great player pride to play with such limited emotion especially when you begin a season they way the Clippers did. The fact that there was even chatter about 'The New Kids on The Block' or the 'Better Team in LA' provides context to how well this team was clicking on both ends of the floor.
It seems as though they are either tired, poorly coached, disinterested or all of the above. If the Clippers expect to improve upon their successes of last season, they have a long way to go in the next few weeks - and perhaps veterans like Lamar Odom can help guide a guy like DeAndre Jordan into a legitimate post-threat or at least bring consistent effort to the table.
The Clippers need a wake-up call. Someone get Donald 'Tokowitz' Sterling on the line. I got some knowledge right here.