Time To Really See About The Clippers


[Editor’s note: The Clippers host the Celtics Thursday night on TNT (10:30 ET).]

HANG TIME WEST — Of course the Clippers are good. They were supposed to be. No one could have seen 14 wins in a row coming with a lineup reduced by injury. But 53 to 55 wins, top four in the West with the Thunder, Spurs and another Staples Center tenant, two All-Star starters, an MVP candidate at point guard, and arguably the best depth in the league? Those were all fair reads from the beginning.

The 22-6 record jumps out because of the sparkle: The longest win streak in the league in 2012-13, the NBA’s best record as late as Christmas for the first time in franchise history. The fact that it’s such a contrast – the Clippers! – is an attention-getter as well.

Now let’s see what they’ve really got.

The 14-game winning streak has been a great ride, but it’s come mostly on the back of weak opponents in what by the end of the season should turn out to essentially be a semi-tour of lottery teams. The Clippers did exactly what they were supposed to do, smacking aside the sparring partners by an average of 15.4 points per contest and allowing 100 points just twice. What the Clippers did not do, because the schedule would not allow it, was send an accurate read of where they are.

That comes now. Beginning with Tuesday night’s victory over the Nuggets in Los Angeles, the Clippers have stepped into a much tougher stretch of schedule, filled with teams that are somewhere between possibly and probably bound for the playoffs.

The last 14 games: Timberwolves, Kings (twice), Jazz, Mavericks, Suns (twice), Raptors, Bulls, Bobcats, Bucks, Pistons, Hornets, Nuggets. The 12 different opponents have a combined winning percentage of .405 today.

The next 15 games: Celtics, Jazz (twice), Nuggets, Warriors (three times), Lakers, Mavericks, Magic, Grizzlies, Rockets, Timberwolves, Wizards and Thunder. The 12 different opponents have a combined winning percentage of .523, and that’s with 3-22 Washington.

The encouraging part for the Clippers is that they already have passed a schedule test this season. That was back when they were 2-2 and had given back the 2-0 start of wins over the Grizzlies and Lakers by losing to the Warriors (which doesn’t look nearly as bad now) and the Cavaliers. A lot of tough opponents were coming up. It was a big early-season moment … and they responded by winning six in a row.

Same thing this time, only without losses anywhere in sight. If the Clippers are still making forward progress in a month, then they’ll really have something. A big part of that will be the health issues and how they transition with returning players.

As well as things are going on the court, the best part about the Clippers now is their attitude, the way coach Vinny Del Negro said after beating Denver that “It’s nice. But it’s Christmas. We’ve got a long way to go and lot of improvements to make.” And how Chris Paul noted that “We always talk about the big picture because this is fool’s gold. You don’t play for the regular season. … We still got to keep building. We’ll know when we’re where we want to be, but we still have a ways to go.”

Perfect mindset. Because they still do have a long way to go.

41 Comments

  1. dattebayo says:

    Dallas had a monster season after they lost in the Finals in 2006, Dirk even became the MVP. Yet they lost to Golden State in the 1st round.

    I think it’s impressive what the Clippers have done so far in this season and their bench is nothing short of amazing. I had them as the 4th seed ahead of the Lakers before the season started and it seems they are right on track for that and could be even better. None the less they will still have to prove themselves on the big stage that is the NBA Playoffs and no regular season accolades will ever over shine postseason failure. The Clippers could win 60 games this season, but until they reach the Conference Finals or NBA Finals, there will always be critics (like Sir Charles) that claim that they are not ready.

  2. supercrewgreen says:

    Bottom line currently is that the Clippers will be hard to beat in a series…They will lose some games going forward, but I don’t see any team including the Thunder winning a series if the Clippers do not have any major injuries.

  3. Poetryselite says:

    I love how die-hard Clippers fans have defended our team (unquestionably the best in the league right now). So many of the comments have been focused on our first 2 weeks (tough schedule) and then the relatively easy schedule during the last month, and rightfully so. However, I’m going to focus on how people are still attempting to downplay how good the Clippers really are. What truly makes the Clippers a legitimate contender? Well that’s easy… a healthy Chris Paul. So much was mentioned about how the Clippers didn’t get it done last year, but how soon do people forget that 4 of our 5 starters were hurt, including Mr. Bigshot (Achilles Tendon), Butler actually playing with a broken hand, Blake Griffin sprained a knee, and CP3 played with 2 nagging injuries. Greg Popovich even pointed out after the Spurs swept the Clippers that “Chris Paul wasn’t right”. When Paul is healthy, without trying to battle through reoccurring injuries, the Clippers are simply not just the best in the West, but the best in the league (22-6 doesn’t lie). Wait until Mr. Bigshot returns (permanently) and Grant Hill starts playing… we’ll only get better.

  4. dk says:

    lamar has been playing well lately. he was a big part of the lakers championship teams coming off the bench a few years back. this is what will help the clippers comes playoff if he continues to get back to his old form.

  5. Rickson says:

    Media don’t really say much about Clippers and get the attention that they deserve, even those 3 women mouth Kenny Smith,Chuck and Shaq they don’t want to say they are the best team in NBA right now, i’m sure they will beat the Warriors and Thunders easy next time.. PS to Lakers fans i’m sorry the Clippers rule the Los Angeles right now.

  6. AnnoYouLater says:

    at his 1st 2 season blake griffin’s lack of overall ability was covered by his highlights dunks but now its different…i think people now are still just impress by his dunks and dont notice how he become a real star player…improved freethrow,jump shots and learned a lot of post moves…

    • Hm says:

      Most of all, his defence stands out. Griffin has (at the time of writing this) the fifth-best defensive rating in the league, according to basketball-reference.

      Only Larry Sanders, Tim Duncan, Roy Hibbert and Paul George (in that order) precede him. The rest of the top 10 is Tony Allen, Eric Bledsoe, Josh Smith, Andre Drummond and DeAndre Jordan.

      That’s right. Three Clippers are in the top 10 for defensive rating.

  7. Omar Ghreiwati says:

    Clippers is an excellent team and is getting better, we must not forget that they beat Lakers, San Antonio (twice), Miami Heat, lost to OKC in over time which was supposed to go the other way. They are going to beat the Celtics easily and going to shut up every Laker fan by demolishing the Los Angeles Lakers. They are not getting the attention they deserve since they are currently the best team in the world. Wait and see….

  8. Whoever plays them in west playoffs is in for it. How many top 4 west teams wana play them in first round @ whatever seed they end up @? Look forward to seeing my Celts beat a new la rival in finals!!! :)

  9. abchome says:

    Don’t forget the Clippers were 8-2 after beating Spurs (twice), Miami, Grizlies, Hawks, Bulls, Lakers early in the season. The tight schedule is a concern though, next 7 games in 10 days with 3 sets of back-to-back.

  10. ChaunceyBillups4Life says:

    Just wait till Chauncey comes back.

  11. Rickson says:

    The Clippers is the though Team to beat no question about, they have really good change to break the Chicago Bulls records back in 1997

  12. JGood says:

    Clippers Nation Rise Up! This is our year. Don’t let the haters steal this moment to feel good about what the Clippers are doing. Little brother is growing up, don’t let the Lakers drama overshadow our success. Best believe, former sixth man of the year, Lamar Odom and Jamar Crawford will ball out in the finals, Our upcoming star Bledsoe was amazing in the playoffs last year and will allow CP3 to get the rest he needs without losing momentum in game. Listen, for this season to be a success we need to win at least two games in the Western Conference finals, cause we are going. Next year we be in the championship conversation, and the expectations will rise, but this year the Clippers are legitimate Western Conference Finals contender and will make a lot of noise, and earn their due respect in the playoffs.

  13. Isaiah says:

    To everyone saying that this article is bashing on the Clippers – it isn’t.

    The article says the Clippers have been winning in pretty dominating fashion over these “weaker” teams, and even says that the “Clippers have done exactly what they were supposed to do”.

    So no, he isn’t saying those wins don’t mean anything, because they do. He’s just saying a more accurate test of their apparent dominance would be in the line of upcoming games against playoff-bound teams.

  14. vish says:

    i’m sorry but what tough stretch. they are just playing same teams over and over again. take a look at lakers next 15 games and then tell me who has tough stretch.

    next 15 games for lakers…..portland, philly, @clippers, denver, @rockets, @SA, OKC (twice), cleveland, bucks, miami, @toronto, @chicago, @memphis.

    • vish says:

      also The 13 different opponents have a combined winning percentage of .576 and that’s including 7-23 Cleveland.

  15. Objectivity says:

    This team’s bench is amazing: Jamal Crawford, Eric Bledsoe, Matt Barnes, Lamar Odom, Grant Hill (when he recovers)… crazy, those guys could all be starters in a decent team.

  16. Bob M says:

    Jamal Crawford is the scoring punch missing from this team. However, I’m not ready to crown them yet. If Lamar Odom comes back into form by late in the season, they will hard to handle. Odom is a matchup nightmare and became a great off ball defender at the Lakers. Griffin, Jordan, and Odom can handle the boards and break in the playoffs. That’s the magic combination.

    • skrutz says:

      Totally. What’s weird as well is that people (myself included) tend to forget that there are still 2 amazing players waiting to join in, and it’d be quite a stretch for anyone to claim that they could hurt the Clippers chances.

    • Boswell says:

      Agreed. Lamar is one of the few areas where his improvement can be worth 4 to 10 points a game, which would make the Clippers unreal. They’re also in need of SG, as WIllie Green is C- at very best. Don’t know if Billups can hold up….. I prefer giving Bledsoe extra minutes at off-guard, especially when opposing team has someone under 6 5″ at SG. I hope Lamar is a different player in 30 games.

  17. Villmatic says:

    As a Warriors fan, I say the Clippers have proven themselves as a top 4 team in the west already. Their winning streak is against mostly lower teams but they’re beating the teams they are supposed to and are able to beat. Nothing is more annoying than losing a game against a team you know you’re better than. As far as I see it, the next 14 games are just a test to see if they are a legitimate threat in the playoffs. (By legitimate I mean Conf. championship and/or Finals)

  18. Tired of the lazy journalist-Cliphaters says:

    This 14 game win streak came after difficult beginning stretch where the CLippers beat, the Lakers, the Mavericks, the Grizzlies, the Heat, the Spurs twice, the Bulls, and the Hawks. They lost to some teams they should have beaten and LEARNED that can’t happen if they are to real their goals – intermediate Western Conference Finals and ultimate NBA Championship. They realize the top is possible hit year with this team and are working to get there without all the usual half steps teams usually must take. As usual the author is ignorant. NO ONE predicted all this for this team. In fact I believe it was on NBA.com that I read in preseason the Clippers had foolishly signed a 2nd team of free agents all coming off their worst years. Who’s a fool now? The Clippers showed thier stuff against tough early competition. They got a wake-up call in Nov during a 4 game losing streak. THis current 14 game streak has included quality wins at Chicago, at Milwaukee and at Utah.

    IT IS TIME to prove they are the elite of the elite. They are accomplished, working well with each other, determined, disciplined, like each other, rested and appear to be ready. May the rest of the league think they are the old Clippers.. The road to the NBA finals goes through Staples Center RED, WHITE, and BLUE.

  19. Stan says:

    CP3 is the best pointguard in the game hands down. Griffen is the best all around forward in the game. Jordan is an underrated Center that is getting better every game. That is the big 3 for the Clippers. They are young and getting better every game they play together. Crawford, Barnes, Odom, Bledsoe give them the best bench in the league. That means the clippers can play each man 20-30 minutes keeping fresh legs on the court with a 10 man rotation. CP3 the best pointguard has 2 of the best dunkers and finishers at the rim with Griffen-Jordan to get them easy baskets and make them alot of fun to watch. If a defender just turns his head for a second the Clippers will get an easy dunk. CP3 is masterful and running this team like a pro.

    • skrutz says:

      I agree, but I can’t help but mention… if you’re promoting a team, it helps to spell the players name correctly! “Griffen” should be “Griffin”. Imagine the flak you’d get if you said “Labrawn is way better than Koby!”

      But again, I agree :)

  20. Rob says:

    Its funny that Lakers get 2 wins with Steve Nash they’re back on top as a top team in the league. But when the Clippers win 14 in a row they’re still a questionable top team and will be till the end of the season according to bias Laker sport writers. Clipper Nation Rise Up and still keep being proud of our team. The numbers and rankings don’t lie, we have the top team in the league for a reason: CP3, and our Bench.

  21. rex says:

    they beat san antonio twice already…not good? sheez

  22. Mr. Griffin says:

    This is not Clipper bashing but reality. The Clippers’ players themselves are even saying it. The wins and records mean nothing without a ring. At least a run to the NBA finals. This is a “championship calibur” team. Leadership. Inside and outside scoring. Defense. Bench contributions. Extreme hunger and thirst. The writers no this already so hats off for giving them their due but LAC is not the best team in the league just playing the best right now… The ones with the rings can only say they are the best even if it only for one year. Shoutout to ATL. Keep balling. We’ll get there!!!

    • ERIC M says:

      of course the team is gonna stay humble and not jinx themselves and no one is claiming they are a sure bet to win it all , but all season ive been hearing about the grizzly’s and other teams that are supposed to be the team to beat , and clips beat all of those
      teams with the exception of the thunder , and that game went into OT and if the clips were playing then like they are now ,
      the thunder would of got clapped like the rest . not only did the clips beat the spurs (twice!) ,grizz, heat etc, but they did it by large point margins and rested there starters for big stretches of games . so no one is claiming there the best and they will win it all but the record speaks for itself . . 14 wins aint no fluke . they are firing on all cylinders and what team can beat them right now ? and what tough schedule? we already beat the jazz and have owned the celtics the last 2-3 years . haters keep hating , its just more fuel for there fire . oh and not too mention we have top players that are injured and havent been playing . this might just be clippers year .

  23. LAC All Day says:

    This is typical Clippers Bashing, LAC is Best in the League and writers still try to find fault ans spew Negativity. Funny how he skips that we had the toughest schedule to start the season and got key wins against top teams in that stretch.

    • dattebayo says:

      You might wanna take a look at San Antonio or Denver, then you might realize how easy the Clippers schedule was until now.

      • chak says:

        This is for you and the writer of this article.Easy for the clippers? go check out who beat Spurs twice this season,
        the are one of the top two teams in the west with no doubt. they beat Miami once before. but i would like to see if next time they can do it again.

      • artifex says:

        It’s even not really “easy”. I think Kenny said it once, the thing is to win the games you ought to win. Any team once looses to under par teams for whatever reason. But the Clippers in the past weeks did just what they had to do and got wins every single time. And these wins will count in the end as much as any other one.
        No one expects them to win all next 14 but they already got a lot of them on their credit…

      • dattebayo says:

        @chak
        All I said was that the Clippers didn’t have the toughest schedule in the league, that is not subject to discussion but a fact. Denver has already played 30 games, 20 on the road and they had 7 back-to-backs. San Antonio has also played 30 games, 17 on the road and they too had 7 back-to-backs. The Clippers only played 28 games so far, they played 17 of those in Staples and they only had 5 back-to-backs so far.

    • dreday says:

      yea we got alot of clippers haters

  24. AnnoYouLater says:

    their bench is really what made them good…if u compare it to other teams’ starters its still way better…and right now the top 3 runner for the 6th man of the year belongs to the clippers(jamal,bledsoe,barnes)

    • Paul says:

      Well, if Crawford, Barnes and Bledsoe are in the running, they all may have to take a step back for Lamar. Right now the bench isn’t deep; it’s bottomless.

  25. Isaaac says:

    interesting to see those key western conference matchups in the coming games (grizzlies, warriors, rockets, t-wolves, thunder, even the lakers) I’d pick one of those teams will probably end the streak. I mean, dang, everyone loses sometimes.

  26. Mikey B says:

    I can’t wait for their game against My Rockets!!!!!

  27. garie says:

    Perfect.

    This is is on the top of their shape and still has the ability to get better.

    Efficient basketball here