Clips Struggling While the Spurs Sizzle
A week ago, the Los Angeles Clippers were dead-even with the Oklahoma City Thunder in the race for the best record in the National Basketball Association. They had won three in a row while Chris Paul sat with a minor injury and then won in his return. Since then however, LA’s “other” team has dropped four-straight.
All teams, no matter how good or how bad, all hit streaks of one degree or another during an 82-game season. Even the 72-win Bulls lost two-in-a-row at one point! I don’t think this is anything to be overly concerned about if I’m a Clippers’ fan but it certainly bears watching.
In each of their four losses, they’ve scored under their season average of 101 points per game. In three of those four, they’ve allowed more points than their average given up as well. That signals to me a team that is in a bit of a slump and nothing more. Sometimes teams that are up and coming like the Clippers are apt to have these types of missteps simply because they are in uncharted territory. Remember, this is the Los Angeles Clippers we’re talking about. They aren’t exactly known for winning in the NBA so let’s how the team handles this going forward.
On the flip-side, we have the San Antonio Spurs who have won eight-straight games despite Tim Duncan nursing a sore knee for the last three and Head Coach Gregg Popovich missing a few due to illness. Most teams would struggle in situations like this but not the Spurs. It’s a credit to the system put in place from the front office to the head coach to the players on the roster.
Under Popovich, the Spurs over the years have shown they can be a defensive team that wins by grinding out games with stifling defense, rebounding and the ability to help out on D better than any other team in the league. Now the Spurs have transitioned themselves into more of an offensive team with five guys averaging double-figures.
The unselfishness of the team is best exemplified in the fact that they lead the NBA in assists. That’s due to the system but also to veterans like Tony Parker, Manu Ginobli and Steven Jackson. It’s no secret the team is aging too and that’s why they’ve been so careful with their veterans. It’s a smart move and a way to deal with the younger teams like Oklahoma City come playoff time.
Other News from the West… The Lakers are now 5.5 games out of the last playoff spot. They aren’t dead yet, but something has to change sooner rather than later… Portland is just a half game out of the final spot and if I had to lay money, I think the Blazers will find a way to get into the playoffs… If the playoffs started today, you’d have a very interesting 3-6 match-up between the Clippers and Denver Nuggets.
Games to watch this week
Houston at Utah – The Rockets have righted the ship a bit after their longest losing streak of the season. They cling to the final playoff spot by just a half game and are one game behind the 7th place Jazz. Houston struggles on the road and Utah is 15-4 at home. Take the Jazz.
Houston at Denver – Two nights after playing in Utah, the Rockets face another playoff challenger in Denver. The Nuggets are even better than the Jazz are at home going 17-3 in their first 20 home games. Both teams will have had a night of rest, but I like the Nuggets.
Memphis at Oklahoma City – The fourth-seed Grizzlies are 6-4 in their last ten and have won two straight. Not bad huh? The consider the Thunder are 8-2 in their last ten and continue to beat their opponents by nearly ten points per game. This one should be a classic, high-scoring Western Conference game in which I like the Thunder.