The Los Angeles Lakers have always dominated basketball in L.A., overshadowing the Clippers and stealing the attention. Not anymore.
Fittingly, the Clippers defeated the Lakers last Sunday on national television 109-95 to win the team’s first ever division title. That’s 29 years that the Clippers have gone without winning the Pacific Division.
In addition, the victory gave the Clippers the sweep in the series with the Lakers for the first time since they were known as the Buffalo Braves in 1974-75.
The team will enter the NBA playoffs with the fourth seed in the Western Conference, despite having the fifth best record in the conference.
Nevertheless, the Clippers have definite potential to go far into the postseason.
For one, they are one of the best athletic teams in the conference with a number of players that the team can lean on for offensive production.
The number one option, of course, is Blake Griffin, who averages 18.2 points per game. After the Slam Dunk Competition in 2011, any basketball fan knows he is explosive and can jump.
But he’s also extremely strong and surprisingly quick for a big man, allowing him to get deep into the lane and finish. As he continues to work on his outside game, Griffin is certain to become one of the best players in this league.
However, even with Griffin, the team would not be great if it weren’t for its floor general in Chris Paul. Paul is such a unique player nowadays, being one of the few true point guards remaining in the game. His ball-handling skills and quickness make him a very fun player to watch and at times he can be too unselfish.
With his finesse in the lane, CP3 nearly averages a double-double with 17.0 points and 9.2 assists. An MVP candidate for much of this season, he is a nearly impossible match-up for any team.
Unlike many teams in the NBA, the Clippers have then surrounded their stars with a mix of solid players. They have balance, combining veterans with young rising stars, defensive players with offensive ones as every player knows his role.
For example, Jamal Crawford averages 16.7 points per game this season, adding another huge offensive threat to the team.
Caron Butler adds another ball-handler and three-point threat as he averages 38.5 percent shooting from behind the arc this season. This spreads the floor, allowing an open lane for Griffin or Paul on the drive. Chauncey Billups, AKA Mr. Big Shot, can knock down the long ball too and adds another veteran leader as an option for Head Coach Vinny Del Negro.
Then, there’s Matt Barnes, who had jumped around from team to team over the course of his career, but definitely seems to fit with the Clippers. He does average double-figure scoring, but Barnes brings an edge to the team and will always scramble for the loose balls.
One of the Clippers’ most improved players is DeAndre Jordan. The man is certainly athletic, as shown by his monster dunk over Brandon Knight in March, but Jordan brings a solid defensive presence more than anything. He leads the team this season in blocks with 1.3 per game, serving as that important force in the key that makes any player think twice about going to the basket.
All in all, the Clippers are finally a force to be reckoned with in the NBA. While the Lakers might be the team that continues to get a lot of media coverage, it’s the Los Angeles team in the red, white and blue that has the best chance to make some noise come playoff time.
This article is an online exclusive and did not appear in the print edition of The Daily Nexus.