The Clippers are one of three teams in the NBA right now with a winning streak of at least five games. Despite my prediction that Dallas would swoop in and steal the fourth seed from the LAC in the West, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin have had other things in mind. The Clippers have won six in a row, are one and a half games ahead of the five seed (Memphis) and are only one and a half games behind the Lakers for the third seed.
Luckily for the Clippers, they have a chance to cut that lead to a half-game in a matchup with the Lakers in the Battle for LA tonight. With Andrew Bynum looking like he will be watching from the sidelines, LAC looks like it’s primed for a big win to move further up in the playoff race.
How have the Clippers gotten here? They have one of the toughest remaining schedules in the NBA, but have found a way to beat four playoff-hopeful teams in their six-game winning streak (Memphis, Phoenix, Utah and Dallas). The answer is two-fold: Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. CP3 is running the game like no other point guard in the NBA right now, deferring to his teammates and distributing the ball before taking over close games in the last five minutes. Meanwhile, Blake Griffin’s sheer athleticism is getting him double-doubles intimidating posterizations that demoralize the opposition.
Vinny Del Negro’s coaching continues to show flaws, such as the Clippers’ sometimes stagnant half-court offense. It seems to either be Lob City or that slowed-down, half-court game that hinders LAC’s play. But with Paul and Griffin playing so well, the Clippers have been able to keep on winning.
Tonight’s matchup will be a very telling one for the Clippers. LAC needs this win, especially if Bynum isn’t going to play. A win would shorten the gap between the Clippers and the Lakers to a half-game. Considering Kobe Bryant’s shooting percentages for the month and the Lakers’ problems with Andrew Bynum, it’s not out of the question that the Clippers make a statement win in Los Angeles tonight.
I still believe the Clippers’ rough remaining schedule will take its toll, and I don’t think they will outwin LAL for the rest of the season to grab that coveted three seed. The loss of Chauncey Billups and Vinny Del Negro sticking around will probably take their toll in the postseason. But I do think people need to give this team credit and watch out for them in the playoffs with the way they’re playing right now. They may not be the heaviest of contenders in the West, but at the very least they will give any contender a run for their money.