LOS ANGELES-The Los Angeles Clippers looked to be treading water through the first two quarters against the Sacramento Kings on Saturday. In fact the Clippers looked as though they were going through the motions in the first half. The 12: 30 p.m. start time may have had something to do with the lethargic way the team played.
The wind down to a long and grinding season may have also contributed to the Clippers’ slow start in the first quarter in which they barely outscored the Kings, 27-26. The Clippers eventually got it in gear enough to beat Sacramento, 117-101, in the final matinee regular season home game at STAPLES Center.
It was a good win for the Clippers following that tough defeat to Kevin Durant and OKC on Wednesday night at home. It was also a good win in that the Clippers tied a franchise mark with the number of wins compiled in a season. Now that win number 56 is out of the way, the Clippers can focus on the playoffs, a postseason that that is bound to be filled with a lot more intensity that was on display against the Kings.
That intensity will be amped with the likelihood that the Clippers play the Golden State Warriors, probably the most dangerous team in the postseason. It is also a team that share no love lost with the Clippers. who split the season series with the Warriors. It also add fuel to the fire that the two teams are 1-2 in the Western Conference Pacific Division standings.
Winning the Pacific Division seems almost anti-climatic for the Clippers, who are now playing for much higher stakes than celebrating a division crown. The Clippers are in this thing to contend for an NBA title. By bringing in Doc Rivers from Boston, the Clippers made it clear that they want more. They now expect more. The road to the NBA Finals, however, is never an easy one.
That path starts with the Warriors, and eventually with OKC and the San Antonio Spurs. The good thing about having a coach like Doc Rivers is that he is a coach who is not afraid to compete with anyone. And he has his team thinking the same way. The beauty of this team that the Clippers assembled is that they have all the pieces to be that team no one wants to play.
They have the stars in Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. They have the muscle in DeAndre Jordan and Glenn “Big Baby” Davis. They have the consistent outside shooting from J.J. Redick and Jamal Crawford. They possess the toughness emulated through Matt Barnes. Add Rivers to that puzzle, the potential for the Clippers to reach the NBA Finals is very real. The postseason is where Rivers historically has done his best coaching.
The regular season is for the players. The postseason belongs to the coaches. This is where Rivers has proven himself to get more out of little than any other coach in the league. Those Boston Celtics teams the last couple of years basically ran on fumes as Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett were essentially shadows of what they once were as players.
Yet Rivers was able to take Pierce, Garnett, Rajon Rondo and a rag-tag bunch of players and push LeBron James and the Miami Heat to the brink of playing their best ball a couple of times. That’s the scary thing about the Clippers. The best is yet to come.