In the aftermath of positively clinical 116-90 dissection at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs, the Los Angeles Clippers have more than a few questions to answer. But the biggest one has to do with which version of the team will show up in this year's postseason.
Everyone remembers L.A.'s historic, undefeated December streak, but, on occasion, games like the one the Clippers mailed in on Thursday night make it seem like that 17-game run happened in another universe.
Don't forget, it wasn't so long ago that L.A. logged a pair of November victories over these very same Spurs. In the first of those two meetings on Nov. 7, the Clips made things look downright easy, cruising to a 106-84 victory.
This time around, Tony Parker utterly dominated Chris Paul, outscoring him 31-4 and generally darting around to any spot on the floor unencumbered. Paul's 1-of-6 performance wasn't the only stinker the Clips laid, though.
The team shot just 42 percent as a whole and simply had no answer for the Spurs' ruthlessly efficient attack. And while San Antonio diced up the Clippers with precise cuts, pinpoint passes and a boatload of made buckets, all L.A. could do was watch.
The assembled masses at the Staples Center came in hoping for a third straight win over the perennially mighty Spurs, but had to settle for entertainment that had little to do with the actual game.
There was certainly a time when the Clippers would have been happy just to be in the postseason conversation. But those days are over now. With a talented core and plenty of depth, L.A. has its sights set on advancing through a postseason series or three, and possibly even hoisting the Larry O'Brien Trophy at season's end.
It may be that this game was merely a blip on the radar. After all, the Clippers had won four straight coming in, including a decisive victory over the hated L.A. Lakers just before the All-Star break. But great teams—and ones that tend to go deep in the playoffs—rarely roll over like the Clippers did against the Spurs.
In fact, despite the shellacking the Lakers took from the Clips just over a week ago, there were plenty of Purple and Gold fans encouraged enough by what the Spurs did that they were eager for a rematch down the road.
It's never a good sign when fans of a team that sits a mile behind you in the standings suddenly feel emboldened enough to want another crack at you. Overall, the Clippers will probably just want to brush off a loss like this and focus on the future. But rest assured, L.A. got a lesson from the Spurs in this one.
If they can learn from it and work to even out the peaks and valleys in their performances, it'll serve the Clippers well as they approach the postseason.
One thing's for sure, though: If they bring this kind of effort to the playoffs, they'll be in for a very short stay.