The NBA team to watch entering 2013 is the Los Angeles Clippers. Lob City owns the best record in the NBA at 25-6 and went undefeated in the month of December. However, all streaks must eventually end, as the Clippers' did Tuesday night in Denver, and just what happens after them remains unknown.
Sure, the Clippers look even better than they did last season, but isn't it a bit early for them, let alone any team, to go on such a run? Not to take away from the team's recent streak, but what more do they have left to prove after winning 17 straight games?
If you ask me, the team has certainly peaked early.
Keep in mind that as impressive as 17 consecutive wins are, the Clippers' stretch isn't exactly impressive. Of those wins, only five came against playoff teams, and low-seeded ones at that. Against harder teams, the Clippers will need to maintain that type of pace so as to avoid the curse of peaking early.
Don't get me wrong. For all we know, the Clippers are legit and this recent winning streak is just a testament to how deep and talented a team they are.
However, the idea that they have indeed peaked early cannot be ignored. As was mentioned before, their streak was against fairly easy teams, and their schedule only gets harder over the rest of the season. They play in the ultra-competitive Western Conference, and the Pacific Division race could shape up to be more competitive with the Los Angeles Lakers starting to get hot and the Golden State Warriors refusing to back down.
It should also be noted that as easy as it may seem for a squad to go on a winning streak, it's just as easy to go on a losing one. The Clippers are no stranger to this, as they had lost four in a row before going on their recent run, so there's always the possibility that it could happen again now that their winning streak has been snapped.
Then, there is the question of the playoffs. The Clippers are most likely going to make it to the postseason, but their win-loss record will be meaningless at that point.
As history has shown us, it is not the best team that wins the championship, but the hottest team. Granted, those two teams can sometimes be one and the same, but something tells me that won't be the Clippers this season.
The fact that Los Angeles went on such a run this season so early leaves their energy over the final stretch of the regular season a big question mark. Today, so many coaches take it easy in the first half and then turn on the afterburners after All-Star Weekend, like Doc Rivers did with his Boston Celtics last season.
Are the Clippers peaking too early?
With teams like the Minnesota Timberwolves destined to get hot down the stretch and the Denver Nuggets just a rotation switch away from being great, the Clippers' time atop the Western Conference roost may be short-lived.
Then again, we could all be wrong. The Clippers' streak did not last forever, but it does not mean that the team should not be taken seriously as a whole.
All I'm saying is this: Teams are naturally streaky, and the playoffs are all about a team getting so at the right time.
The Clippers' streakiness lasted a long time early in the season, and it's doubtful that it will return on that level down the stretch. The team can still win a championship, but will thus need to rely on hard work now, rather than momentum.
Now that their winning streak is over, it will be interesting to see just how much momentum they'll have left in the tank for the rest of the season, as well as the playoffs.