The Los Angeles Clippers have undergone the biggest makeover the NBA has seen since Dennis Rodman donned a wedding dress in the ‘90s. A team that six years ago was acting as a prepubescent freshman elbowing his way through the varsity locker room of the NBA is now a legitimate title contender. The boys have become men, a fact made apparent in the healthy résumé the squad has built over the past season.
TheClippersare14-9againsttheothersevenplayoff-boundWesternConferenceteams, and have beaten each of the seven at least once this season. LA is on a roll of late, having won six of its past eight games, with both losses coming on the road by single digits and just three of the six victories coming away from home as well.
Beating top teams around the league during the regular season is a far cry from beating those same teams in the postseason. But as any coach or player would say, once you know how to beat a team … you know how to beat a team. The Clippers have beaten the Spurs, Thunder, Lakers, Grizzlies and defending champion Mavericks this season. Knowing how to take down each of the top-ranked teams in the west is a huge advantage for a roster made of players mostly unfamiliar to games in May.
That aforementioned résumé would not look so nice if it weren’t for the talented tandem of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, and a bench that goes deeper than Larry Fitzgerald.
Clutch Chris is putting up some of his best numbers in three years. His 19.8 ppg is higher than his career average, and he’s able to fire off a double-double any night with 9.1 apg. Find him with the ball at the end of big games where, as he’s proved all season, he can be just as deadly of a late-game threat as any other superstar.
The positives are obvious: He leads the team in scoring (20.6 ppg) and rebounding (10.9 rpg). He’s proven to be one of the most aggressive big men in the league, yet with his despicable foul shooting (52 percent this year) he’ll need to get a lot of calls in order to provide any type of offensive threat from the line.
From the starting five through the sitting 10, the Clippers have weapons available at any time. Caron Butler (12 ppg, 3.7 rpg) and Mo Williams (13 ppg, 3 apg) have been solid in their replacement roles of Chauncey Billups this year. DeAndre Jordan leads the team in field goal percentage (63.4) and is supported by Nick Young, who has dropped a cool 14.3 ppg average this season, and adds a flair to a Clipper defense that at times lacks an interior presence.
How does all of this make the Clippers a more potent postseason threat than the Lakers? One answer is that the Lakers are simply getting old. No matter how many puppets or predictions are made surrounding a potential trip to the Finals, there’s no overcoming a younger, scrappier squad — which is what the Mavericks were last year, and which is what the Clippers will be this year.
Plus, Lob City knows how to handle tight games. They’ve won 12 by five points or less this season, proving that this is a squad that can cut through crunch time like Edward’s hedges.
Daily Nexus Sports Editor Brent Pella prefers Clippers over razors. That’s why he’s a winner.