Predicting L.A. Clippers Playoff Seeding Versus Rest of the Western Conference

Oren FriedmanCorrespondent IISeptember 13, 2012

Predicting L.A. Clippers Playoff Seeding Versus Rest of the Western Conference

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    Looking ahead to the 2013 NBA Playoffs, the seeding in the Western Conference might look eerily similar to that of 2012 for the Los Angeles Clippers.

    With the acquisitions of Steve Nash and Dwight Howard this summer, the Los Angeles Lakers still appear to be the top dogs in the Pacific Division. Fueled by a Finals loss to the Miami Heat, the Oklahoma City Thunder look as poised as ever to retain their Western Conference crown.

    Coming out of the Western Conference will be a tough task for any team this season. For the Clippers, matchups are incredibly important.

    The developing core of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin will do its best to take LAC past the second round of the playoffs this season, but how far they can get is still up in the air.

    Here is a prediction of the Western Conference playoff picture, and how each team shapes up against Lob City.

8. Minnesota Timberwolves

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    Record against the Clippers last season: 3-1

    Breakdown: The Minnesota Timberwolves found great success against the Los Angeles Clippers last season. 

    The combination of Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love was simply too much to handle for the Clips, who continually underestimated their opponents and dropped three of four to an up-and-coming T-Wolves squad.

    Throw in a healthy Brandon Roy to the mix, and Minnesota could surprise this season.

    Luckily for the Clips, the Timberwolves are unlikely to be higher than the No. 8 seed in the 2013 playoffs. They might not even make the postseason if they are not able to hold off playoff-hungry teams like the Jazz and the Rockets.

    Unless the Clippers finish with the best record in the conference, they will likely avoid Love and company this postseason.

7. Dallas Mavericks

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    Record against the Clippers last season: 1-2

    Breakdown: Despite playing some close games last season, the Dallas Mavericks were never really able to figure out the Clippers. 

    Chauncey Billups came up big in the Clips' first game against the Mavericks, hitting a near buzzer-beater to lift Lob City over Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavs.

    The Clippers dropped a close one in Dallas before beating the Mavericks decisively at the end of the season.

    With the new additions of O.J. Mayo, Darren Collison and Chris Kaman, Dallas could coalesce into a competitive team.

    Given the turnover on the roster, however, it would be shocking to see the Mavericks pass the Spurs or Grizzlies in the Southwest Division.

6. Memphis Grizzlies

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    Record against the Clippers last season: 4-6

    Breakdown: The Clippers' Game 7 road victory over the Memphis Grizzlies in last postseason's first round will go down as one of the seminal moments in the history of Clipper Nation.

    After blowing a 3-1 series lead, the Clippers accomplished the daunting task of stealing two games on the road. The victory was a testament to the leadership of Chris Paul as much as it was an expression of bench dominance by the Clips.

    The series was a slugfest by all possible measures.

    From trench battles involving Blake Griffin, Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph to testy moments between Chris Paul and Rudy Gay, this series had it all.

    Despite their success against the Grizzlies, the Clippers might prefer to avoid Memphis in all future postseason series.

    A No. 6 seed seems appropriate for the Grizzlies, likely allowing Lob City to avoid any playoff trips to Tennessee.

5. Denver Nuggets

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    Record against the Clippers last season: 1-3

    Breakdown: The Clippers offensive firepower and poise proved to be too much for the Denver Nuggets to handle last season. 

    The Clippers dominated Denver, winning three of the four games, including two in the Mile-High City.

    With the addition of Andre Iguodala this summer, the Nuggets are even faster and more athletic than they were a season ago. A team that took the Lakers to the brink in the first round of the 2012 postseason is now hungry to move deeper into the playoffs.

    Unfortunately for Lob City, there is a large chance that these two teams will square off next April.

    The Nuggets pose a series of matchup problems for the Clips. From the speed of Ty Lawson in the backcourt, to the athleticism of Iguodala and the hustle of Kenneth Faried, the Nuggets are offensively loaded.

    Top to bottom, however, the Clippers should retain the advantage.

4. Los Angeles Clippers

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    Record against the Clippers last season: N/A

    Breakdown: Coming off of a second-round sweep at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs last season, the Clippers are hoping that roster upgrades will lead them to the Western Conference Finals.

    The Clippers had a busy offseason in which they acquired Lamar Odom, Jamal Crawford and Grant Hill.

    Moving forward, the onus will be on the core of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin to take this team to the next level. The development of young guys DeAndre Jordan and Eric Bledsoe will also be of chief importance.

    The Clippers played most conference opponents pretty well last season. The Spurs were an exception, however, as Lob City never figured out coach Gregg Popovich's complex schemes.

    LA should be able to knock off its first-round opponent, but seeding could be everything for the Clips come playoff time.

    An unfavorable second-round matchup against the Spurs or the Lakers could result in an early exit for Lob City.

3. San Antonio Spurs

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    Record against the Clippers last season: 6-1

    Breakdown: The Spurs would love to play the Clippers again in the 2013 postseason.

    The veteran core of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker was overwhelming for coach Vinny Del Negro's young team.

    Unsurprisingly, San Antonio decisively handled the Clips, sweeping them easily in the second round of last season's playoffs.

    Had Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, Chauncey Billups and Caron Butler been completely healthy last season, the results might have been different.

    Nevertheless, the schooling Coach Popovich laid on Del Negro was undeniable.

    The Clippers should hope to avoid the Spurs' bracket in the playoffs. Holding them off as long as possible would be wise for Lob City.

2. Los Angeles Lakers

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    Record against the Clippers last season: 2-1

    Breakdown: Last season there was an unprecedented amount of hype for the previously one-sided Lakers vs. Clippers matchup. The Battle of Los Angeles has taken on new meaning since the Clippers traded for Chris Paul in the aftermath of David Stern's infamous veto.

    All three of the Clippers-Lakers games last season were physical and chippy. The three games had a whopping 12 technical fouls called on both players and coaches.

    The scoring was also close. In the three games, the Lakers outscored the Clippers by a mere two points, an aggregate score of 303 to 301.

    The Lakers' summer acquisitions of Steve Nash and Dwight Howard could change the landscape of this budding rivalry in 2012-13. 

    Nevertheless, over the last few years it has become evident that this series has taken on new energy.

    The closest these teams came to facing off in the playoffs was in 2006 when the Lakers blew a 3-1 first round series lead to the Phoenix Suns.

    Unless both teams make the Western Conference Finals this season, an all-LA playoff series could be just a pipe dream.

1. Oklahoma City Thunder

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    Record against the Clippers last season: 1-3

    Breakdown: The Clippers were one of the few teams that the Oklahoma City Thunder could not figure out in 2011-12.

    Despite a monster trio of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden, the Thunder dropped three of four to the Clippers last season, including two blowouts in the Staples Center.

    The games against the Thunder last season featured some of the best highlights for Lob City as well.

    From the Clippers four consecutive three-pointers in just under a minute to Blake Griffin's monster posterization of Kendrick Perkins, the Thunder were time and time again the victims of solid team play by the Clippers.

    Out of the Thunder, the Lakers and the Spurs, Oklahoma City has to be the best matchup for the Clippers.

    If the Thunder finish with the best record in the West and the Clips finish in the No. 4 spot, then this could be a very exciting second round series.