Los Angeles Clippers: Too Early to Think NBA Finals?

Todd PheiferAnalyst IIINovember 16, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 14:  Blake Griffin #32 of the Los Angeles Clippers and LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat jockey for position for a free throw attempt at Staples Center on November 14, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. The Clippers won 107-100.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

I know what you are thinking.

You are thinking, “Slow down there, fella.”

One does not typically put the Los Angeles Clippers and the NBA Finals in the same sentence, particularly when the Clips have played less than 10 percent of the season.

There is much basketball left to be played in the 2012-13 season. Losing streaks, locker-room drama and injuries could all wreak havoc on this talented team.

Still, the convincing 107-100 win over the world champion Miami Heat was pretty exciting. So were wins over top-tier teams such as the Memphis Grizzlies, Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs.

Translation? So far, this team can play with anyone.

Again, it is very early. The Clippers have played the bulk of their games at home. In addition, it doesn't hurt that Jamal Crawford is off to a very hot start.

The reality is that the Clippers really could have the total package.

They have a great backcourt, size in the paint and possibly the deepest bench on the NBA. Chris Paul led the starters with only 31 minutes against the Heat; 10 players played over 15 minutes in the win over Miami.

Balance. Elite talent in the starting five. Veteran leadership. Eric Bledsoe being a spark plug off the bench. Matt Barnes setting the tone on defense.

All the pieces of a potential champion.

This is not just about Blake Griffin making the highlight reel anymore. This squad is really good.

Los Angeles is third in the NBA in points per game and sixth in assists. In other words, they can score in bunches and they share the ball.

Obviously, the rebounding is not necessarily great and the Clippers are not exactly a lockdown defensive squad. I wonder sometimes whether Vinny Del Negro will ever be able to come up with a comprehensive scheme that will help the Clippers become elite defenders.

They did hold San Antonio to 84 points, which means that they can get after it on defense when properly motivated. Now they just need to maintain that motivation for another 74 games.

Not an easy task.

At some point you assume that someone will get hurt. Jamal Crawford will cool down and drop below his current shooting percentages of 51 percent from the floor, 42 percent from behind the arc and 90 percent from the line. Losing streaks will occur. Momentum will shift.

I did not start this Finals talk. Between shouts of “Bingo,” Ralph Lawler was talking about the Finals during the broadcast. He even admitted that some fans might suggest that he is being a homer and just rooting for his team.

After broadcasting more than 2,500 games, I will trust that Ralph knows the difference between a contender and a pretender. Ralph has seen a lot of bad basketball in his time, so I do not see him being prone to wishful thinking.

I did have to chuckle that ESPN had this caption on their front page photo, even when the game was well in hand and the Clippers were clearly going to win:

“The Clippers have their hands full with LeBron in town.”

I am sorry, but who had their hands full with whom?

This Clippers team is for real. The NBA Finals? It could happen.