The Los Angeles Clippers are headed back to the NBA playoffs for the first time since 2006, and with Chris Paul and Blake Griffin leading the charge, fans should be excited about the possibility of playing deep into this year's postseason.
No team has ever been a sure-thing, though, and while Lob City has a legitimate chance at making a deep run in the playoffs, Los Angeles needs to be ready for a few obstacles that just might get in its way once the playoffs begin later this month.
Vinny Del Negro has been under heavy scrutiny for quite some time now.
The motion to remove Del Negro from the hot seat was a smart one by both the team's owner and general manager, as there's no need to keep the guy rattled when he's about to embark upon a possible run to the NBA Finals.
Del Negro has appeared as a head coach in the playoffs twice with the Chicago Bulls and was eliminated from the first round both times.
There's no denying that this year is much different from what he's had in the past, with weapons such as Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan to help take over games at any given point.
If you believe, though, that the best way to predict future results is through past experience, then the Clippers might be in trouble as an inexperienced coach attempts to lead a relatively inexperienced team into the playoffs this season.
Free-throw shooting has arguably been the Clippers' biggest Achilles' heel of the 2011-12 NBA season.
Shooting just 69 percent from the charity stripe this year, the Clippers are 29th in the league in free-throw shooting, and have struggled to knock down shots from the line with much consistency.
Heading into the playoffs, that's going to be a problem.
The shooting woes certainly can't be blamed on one player, but with Blake Griffin getting to the line nearly three more times per game than the next rotation player on the roster, you'd like to see him knock down more than 52 percent of his attempts in the playoffs.
We all know that free throws can be a difference-maker in games, and in the playoffs, the Clippers are going to have to be better if it comes down to making freebies late in games.
To their credit, the Clippers have improved drastically on the boards throughout the year, and allow the fewest offensive rebounds in the entire NBA at this point.
The Clippers as a team, though, have been subpar throughout the season, and are just 18th in the league in rebounding with the playoffs right around the corner.
The bench in L.A. had trouble rebounding early on, which made the signing of Kenyon Martin an even more essential move this season.
The problem here lies in the fact that all playoff teams out West have proven to be better rebounding squads through the duration of the season.
It's going to be up to the players who don't usually contribute on the boards to help create possessions that can help lead the team further into the playoffs this season.
With a road record of 16-14, the Clippers have been respectable on the road this year.
Heading into the postseason, however, every team should be worried about home-court advantage.
The Clippers should head into the first round with home-court advantage, but barring any major upsets, they will be on the road more than they are at home as they continue their run toward a championship.
One thing that all teams ahead of the Clippers have in common is that they are all great home teams, and with a 23-9 record of their own at home this season, hosting a series deep in the playoffs would be ideal for a relatively inexperienced Los Angeles squad.
The Clippers can certainly get it done on the road, but the insurance of the crowd having their back would be the extra boost that the team might need to contend for a title this year.
We know that the absence of Chauncey Billups has been felt at times throughout the shortened season, but according to Trevor Ebaugh of ESPN, the Clippers are the worst playoff team in the NBA when it comes to being clutch in crunch time.
Aside from Chris Paul, the Clippers' roster is made up largely of inexperienced talent when it comes to postseason play.
The question is not whether or not Paul can be the guy to lead the Clippers down the stretch throughout the playoffs; he absolutely can. The guy has to be considered one of the most clutch players in the entire NBA.
Can he do it by himself, though, once crunch time hits in the playoffs, is a whole different question, and we're about to find out the answer with the playoffs less than two weeks away.