NBA: Clippers in complete control of Pacific divisionBy David A.
The Los Angeles Clippers have sailed away with the Pacific division lead at the midpoint of the NBA season. Tonight the Clippers take on division rival the Los Angeles Lakers for their last game prior to the All-Star break.
During preseason, writers, executives, coaches and players were predicting the Lakers to rule again in the division due to their two acquisitions in the off season. With Dwight Howard down low and Steve Nash running the offense, many felt the Lakers would easily win their sixth straight Pacific title.
At this point, those predictions could be no further from the truth. The Clippers are holding a 6 ½ game lead over the second place team in the division and it is not even the Lakers. Golden State started out very strong early in the season, but has come back to earth of late, in part due to nagging injuries bothering guard Stephen Curry.
However, the Lakers are a dismal 25-28 and 12 games behind the Clippers. The Lakers have won 8 of their past 11, but will struggle to qualify for the final eight in the conference. The Lakers have moved up to ninth place in the conference race for the postseason, but are still 2 ½ games behind eighth place Houston.
The Clippers are very strong this season with not only their starting five but their bench. Los Angeles has the best bench in the league. The Clippers currently own the third best record in the conference and since Chris Paul returned from an injury they are 2-1, and were 6-6 without him.
In two wins since he returned, Paul has averaged 23 points and 9 assists along with over 4 steals and 4 rebounds per game. Paul’s importance to the team was noticed during his 12 games on the sidelines, but with him back everyone is better including Blake Griffin who is currently leading the team in both scoring in rebounding.
So far this season, the Clippers are 7-4 in the division and 25-9 in the conference. The Clippers have defeated the Lakers both times they have met this season including a 107-102 win on January 4.
Golden State has lost six of their past 10 games and will enjoy the four day rest for this weekend’s all start game to regroup. The Warriors have fallen to sixth in the conference standings and are playing under .500 ball against conference opponents.