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Spoiler Alert: Clippers Can Play a Major Role in the Playoff Picture
Posted By Taylor Smith On Mar 16 2011 @ 11:17 am In Los Angeles Clippers | 3 Comments
Incredibly, the 2010-11 season for the Los Angeles Clippers is winding down, and we’ve got just 14 games to go.
Sadly, our Clippers won’t be finding themselves involved first-hand in the upcoming playoffs, but enough has happened this season to give fans (and the team itself, for that matter) legitimate cause for excitement moving forward.
(Note: This may or may not have anything to do with Blake Griffin and Eric Gordon.)
(Hint: It does.)
However, there’s still more than enough incentive for the Clippers to hold off on planning offseason fishing trips and golf outings in order to focus on the remaining handful of games.
As it turns out, the Clips can have a fairly large impact on how the Western Conference playoffs will be shaking out.
Of the final 14 games, 10 will come against Western teams either jockeying for a higher playoff seed or a spot in the tournament itself, including two with Memphis, two with Dallas, two with Oklahoma City, two with Phoenix and one with both Houston and the L.A. Lakers.
Just to recap, as it stands Wednesday, March 16, Dallas sits a half-game behind the Lakers for the West’s No. 2 seed, OKC is three games back of Dallas in fourth place, and Memphis, Phoenix and Houston are all within three games of one-another.
With just one playoff spot seemingly at stake between those final three teams, their five combined games with our little Clippers are looming fairly large here.
So, confusing number totals aside, how have the Clips fared against these teams so far this season?
vs. Lakers (1-2)
The Clippers have faced their Staples Center co-hosts three times so far this season and have lost two of them.
The first two games were each extremely close down-the-stretch, with the first game being decided on a running layup by Derek Fisher as time expired. The shot got no more than a half-inch over the outstretched fingertips of DeAndre Jordan, and the Lakers escaped with a one-point victory.
The Clips took the next meeting by a score of 99-92 with a balanced effort from Griffin, Gordon, Jordan and old friend Baron Davis. This was an intense game marred by a few late-game temper flareups that saw Griffin, Davis, Ron Artest and Lamar Odom ejected in the final seconds.
In the most recent meeting, the Lakers outscored the Clippers 33-17 in the third quarter on their way to a 13-point win.
The Clippers’ athleticism has been tough for the older Lakers to deal with at some points so far this season, so it’s never been the cakewalk for the two-time defending champs that you may think it would be.
vs. Mavericks (0-2)
The Mavericks have long provided the Clippers with terrible matchup issues, and this season has proven no different thus far.
The teams first met all the way back on October 31 in L.A., and Dallas was able to cruise to an easy 99-83 win. I wouldn’t take too much from this one going forward, as each team has changed quite a bit since then.
The Clippers traveled to Dallas on January 25, and, once again, the third quarter came back to bite them. After leading by eight at the half, the Clippers couldn’t buy a bucket in the third, and the Mavs outscored them 27-16. They didn’t look back.
This was the first game after Eric Gordon suffered his still-nagging wrist injury.
The Clippers will host the Mavericks on March 30, and will head back to Big D April 8.
vs. Oklahoma City (1-1)
The Clippers earned their first win of the season against the Thunder way back on November 3 at Staples Center. They were able to hold All-Stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in check offensively (they combined to shoot just 11-40) and got a break-out performance from Eric Bledsoe (17 points, eight assists).
Then again, as mentioned above with regards to the Mavericks, the Thunder have changed quite a bit since then, as well.
The second matchup was Griffin’s “homecoming” on February 22, but the Clips fell 111-88. Griffin exploded for 28 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists, but OKC used a 15-0 run with Blake on the bench on their way to an easy win.
Jeff Green led the Thunder in scoring in each of the first two meetings, but, in case you didn’t know, he’s now playing for the Celtics.
vs. Memphis (0-2)
The first time these two teams played was in L.A. on December 11, as the Grizzlies used a big fourth quarter from Tony Allen to win it 84-83. The Clippers committed 27 turnovers that afternoon, which prevented them from ever gaining much offensive momentum in the second half.
They met again just the other night (March 14) in what turned out to be a 105-82 forgettable loss for L.A.
Blake Griffin was held under 10 points for the first time in his career, and the Clippers, conversely, were incapable of stopping Zach Randolph, who went off for 30 points and 12 rebounds.
Randolph has totaled 48 points and 25 rebounds in the two games.
vs. Phoenix (1-1)
In the first meeting of the season, the Clippers, who trailed by as many as 25 points, fought back late, but the Suns were able to regroup and fend them off for the 116-108 win in Phoenix. Jason Richardson (who now plays in Orlando) led the Suns with 29.
The Clippers took the second game 108-103 at Staples Center behind (yet another) strong effort from Griffin, who finished with 28 points and 12 rebounds. The Clippers blew a 10-point lead, but a late Eric Gordon jumper sealed the deal.
This was the Clips’ first win against the Suns since January 2008, and their fourth against the Suns in 19 meetings since the 2006 playoffs.
vs. Houston (1-2)
Los Angeles was nearly able to come back after trailing by as many as 18 in the second half, but four Kevin Martin free throws in the final 16 seconds of the game gave the Rockets a 97-92 win the first time the two teams played.
Houston won the second game between the two, as well, as the weary Clippers were playing the second-half of a back-t0-back and second-straight game without Eric Gordon in late January.
However, the Clippers were finally get over the hump against the Rockets at home on March 2, as Chase Budinger missed what would’ve been a game-tying three-pointer as time expired.
The Clippers hold a tremendous size advantage over the vertically-challenged Rockets, and that showed in the most recent matchup. Griffin, Jordan and Chris Kaman combined to score 49 points and grab a whopping 39 rebounds.
The feisty little Clippers have done their fair share of dragon-slaying this season, and wreaking a little havoc down-the-stretch of the season would be the perfect way to send the 2010-11 season out on a high note.
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