The real season now begins. Thus, a test of wills will be on full display in front of a growing global audience as the NBA playoffs unfolds. The Los Angeles Clippers have had a great season under first-year coach Doc Rivers. But they’ve had a couple of great regular seasons the past few years.
What’s the difference in this year’s team and those in the past? The difference is Rivers, team chemistry and a dogged determination to lock up opposing offenses from the defensive side of the ball. All of this becomes mute if the Clippers do not go deep into the postseason. The level of expectations since the Clippers hired Rivers as their coach has an underlying theme: an eventual NBA title.
The Clippers have advanced to the second round of the NBA playoffs the past two years. They expect to go further this year, regardless what team is in front of them. Sometimes it’s hard to gauge what a team does in the regular season to how they perform in the postseason. The Clippers, no doubt, will be a different team when they come out of the locker room on Saturday to face the Golden State Warriors in a Western Conference first round game at Staples Center.
The Warriors will be different, too. This is the NBA playoffs. The intensity level will be much higher, taking flight to another level as the best-of-seven series goes deeper and deeper. Coaching strategies will be greatly improved. Defense becomes more of a premium rather than a conscious hiccup. The Clippers-Warriors series is a fascinating matchup as there is to watch.
You have two dynamic coaches in Rivers and the Warriors’ Mark Jackson. This postseason could be Blake Griffin’s coming out party. Griffin has turned up his spectacular play into consistency on both ends of the floor with Chris Paul leading the way. Glen “Big Baby” Davis and new addition Danny Granger gives the ballclub depth.
The key to the series, however, will be what type of defensive solution Matt Barnes will have to come up with in order to stop Step Curry and Klay Thompson from going buckwild in the scoring column. If Barnes is able to slow down both Curry and Thompson just enough, that would give the Clippers the advantage in the series. The Warriors, though, will present the Clippers with as tough a matchup problem as they will encounter should Los Angeles move on to the next round.
Curry, who shoots unconsciously at times, could burn the nets at Staples Center and throughout the first round. The Warriors, those pesky, flying little guys, had the San Antonio Spurs on their heels in the second round of the NBA playoffs last season.
The x-factor for the Clippers is Rivers. Rivers does his best work in the playoffs. This year will prove to be no exception. While the Warriors will the Clippers a run for their money, Rivers will be able to counteract anything Golden States does with his ability to pull out the best from his players.