Remember when the Los Angeles Clippers started the 2010-11 season with a 1-13 record?
LA’s “other team” has gone 15-13 since that point, and, while they’re still 10 games under .500 on the season, has started to steal some of the headlines from their Staples Center co-residents, the Lakers.
The Clippers have rattled off six consecutive wins at home to get to 13-13 at Staples Center for the year.
However, the road hasn’t been kind to them, as the Clippers are just 3-13 away from home.
While actually reaching the playoffs may still be a bit of a longshot (LA’s loss to Portland Thursday night dropped them to seven games behind the Blazers, who hold the Western Conference’s final playoff spot), the achievement certainly isn’t completely out of the question.
They’ve won 11 of their last 16 games, and the emergence of the sensational Blake Griffin has brought the Clippers the kind of national notoriety they have so sorely lacked throughout the years.
Things have been rolling of late, but a few brutal stretches of road games beginning in February has the chance to sink the Clippers’ playoff aspirations.
Starting February 2nd, the Clippers will embark on a massive 11-game road swing that will pit them against the league’s best, including Miami, Orlando, Atlanta, New York, Oklahoma City, New Orleans and the Lakers.
As we’ve seen several times already this season, the Clippers aren’t afraid to go toe-to-toe with the NBA’s powerhouses, as they’ve already beaten the Thunder, Spurs, Hornets, Lakers, Heat, Bulls and Nuggets this season.
However, all but one of those wins (Chicago) came at home.
In order to be elite in the NBA, you have to be able to win on the road, especially in the brutal Western Conference.
Without question, LA’s lack of experience up-and-down the roster has plenty to do with their road woes so far this season.
The Clippers have five players (DeAndre Jordan, Eric Bledsoe, Al-Farouq Aminu, Eric Gordon and Griffin) that are 22 or younger and play major roles.
Two of their veteran leaders (Baron Davis and Chris Kaman) have each missed significant time so far this season due to injuries, and were largely unable to help the younger players get through the tough stretch to begin the year.
However, we’ve seen what kind of difference a veteran presence like Davis can make.
He’s been playing by far his best basketball as a Clipper of late, and is looking more and more like the player the Clippers thought they were getting when they signed Davis to a five-year, $65 million contract in 2008.
Being able to play with guys like Griffin, Gordon and Jordan has clearly rejuvenated a player often criticized for his lack of motivation over the course of the last couple of years.
Davis’ play will have to set the tone for the Clippers as they venture out onto the road, as the team’s performance has really taken off since he came back from injury and was reinserted into the starting lineup.
They’ve been able to grow exponentially as a team since the beginning of the season, and the next step will be to take their show on the road and win with consistency.
Without a doubt, the Clippers have the talent necessary to be a playoff team in this league.
The question is: are they mature enough to deal effectively with the adversity that comes with competing away from home?
We’ll find out.
About the Author
Written by Taylor Smith
Taylor Smith is a writer for the Los Angeles Clippers.