Could the LA Clippers Win the NBA Championship?
On March 17, playing against the Denver Nuggets, the L.A. Clippers saw their 11-game winning streak come to an end. Blake Griffin scored 20 points, and Chris Paul scored 29. However, the team failed to score at all in the final 3:31 of the game.
Still, when you bet on the NBA championships, don’t count the Clippers out. The San Antonio Spurs, another Western Conference rival, are the only other team that has a shot at beating the Clippers. The Clippers could also face some
challenges from the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference tournament. However, the Clippers have clinched the playoffs, and they look like a great choice for your NBA championship bet.
They need to address three major problems — or figure out a way around them — if they’re going to win the NBA championship.
The Clippers rely on DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin to protect the rim. That’s pretty much the only defensive strategy they can rely on when so many opponents can penetrate the perimeter and get into the paint. Darren Collison and Jerome Crawford, the Clippers’ lead guards, don’t seem to have a lot of answers when they’re attacked off the dribble. The stats don’t lie: In points allowed per 100 possessions, the Clippers rank 11th.
Because the defense hasn’t stepped up consistently this season, the team puts a lot of pressure on the scoring chops of Paul and Griffin. Chris Paul is also helpful with defense thanks to his quickness, but the Clippers largely rely on Jordan and Griffin to block shots all night. If your last resort defense is pretty much your only defense, you’re going to be pushed into high scoring offensive contests, and a lot of opposing players are going to get to the foul line. If Griffin and Paul have an off night during a conference championship game, then the Clippers’ weak defense makes
The Clippers clinched the playoffs by beating the Houston Rockets on March 30, but they did it without solid help on the frontcourt. Doc Rivers actually sent forward Glen Davis, known as “Big Baby,” off the bench and back to the locker room. Davis started yelling at Coach Rivers when Rivers pulled him out of the game and sent in Ryan Hollins.
Rumors have swirled about the Clippers’ plans to trade for a better frontcourt. In February, several sports stations reported the Clippers were shopping Matt Barnes to try to bring in some frontcourt help.
When the trading deadline came, however, Barnes stayed, and the Clippers released Byron Mullens and Antawn Jamison in what appeared to be more of an economic move than a strategic one. Glen Davis, who had played for Rivers when Rivers coached the Celtics, arranged a buyout with the Orlando Magic and joined the Clippers’ roster in late February.
Still, the frontcourt could remain weak, especially if Davis keeps acting like a “Big Baby.”
Keep Players Healthy
Chris Paul sat out a month and a half because of a shoulder injury earlier in the year, and Blake Griffin left the Rockets game with back spasms about six minutes into the contest.
Doc Rivers told ESPN the back spasms were probably triggered by a hip injury that Griffin had been nursing. Griffin started all 74 games this season, so some rest before the playoffs might be in order. Chris Paul and Blake Griffin have to be healthy for the Clippers if they’re going to win the championship. J.J. Redick has been out with a bulging lower back disc, and Danny Granger just strained his left hamstring. Jamal Crawford also appeared to be having some problems with his already injured calf when he left the Rockets game. Doc Rivers will have to be strategic about how he plays his rotation to keep everyone off of the stretcher.
Don’t hesitate to place your bet on the Clippers.
Doc Rivers was an outstanding defensive player during his point guard days, so if anyone knows how to coach the Clippers through their defensive struggles, it’s Rivers. Rivers already has one NBA championship under his belt, which he earned in 2008 as coach of the Boston Celtics. The Clippers have their weak points, but their offense can be spectacular. If it holds, the Clippers should start dusting off a shelf for their 2014 NBA championship trophy.
Staples Center image by David Jones from Flickr Creative Commons
Matt Barnes and Ryan Hollins image by LWYang from Flickr Creative Commons
Doc Rivers image by shaka from Wikimedia Commons