Comfortably sitting atop the Pacific Division standings, the Clippers are all but a lock to grab their first ever division title. However, a 6-6 record without Chris Paul in the lineup this year has kept the Clips out of the top spot in the West. Now, they attempt to hold onto their current third-place position in the Western Conference and stay ahead of the surging Memphis Grizzlies and Denver Nuggets.
March is full of important games that have significant playoff implications. With 14 games on the slate, which should Clipper Nation be especially interested in?
Statistics used in this article were accurate as of February 25, 2013.
When: Sunday, March 17
Where: Staples Center
Record against the New York Knicks this season: 1-0
Breakdown: Any time New York's Carmelo Anthony is on the court is must see TV.
Anthony will certainly be looking for revenge this time. That the Knicks are looking to catch the Indiana Pacers for the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference makes this game all the more important.
Prediction: Paul, Griffin and some home cooking are too much to for Melo and Co. to handle at Staples. Lob City dispatches the Knicks.
When: Thursday, March 7
Where: Pepsi Center, Denver
Record against the Denver Nuggets this season: 1-1
Denver is one of the best teams in the league at home, boasting a 24-3 record. In the high altitude, the Nuggets are known for turning games into track meets, led by the speed and agility of point guard Ty Lawson.
The Clippers will need to play a complete game if they hope to knock off Denver at home, especially having played the night before against the Milwaukee Bucks.
Dictating the pace and limiting fast break opportunities will be key in this matchup.
Prediction: The Clippers will be winded after their back-to-back and unable to keep up with the Nuggets’ torrid speed. Denver puts the game away in the fourth quarter.
When: Wednesday, March 13
Where: Staples Center
Record against the Grizzlies this season: 2-0
Breakdown: After dropping the first two matchups of the season to the Clippers, the Memphis Grizzlies will be looking to make a statement and knock off Lob City at home.
The Grizz have not beaten the Clippers since Game 6 of last year’s epic first-round playoff series. In the last two seasons, including the playoffs, Memphis is just 1-5 against the Clips at Staples Center.
Regardless of their records, these games have a habit of turning into slugfests.
With the Grizzlies trying to steal the No. 3 seed from Los Angeles, it is imperative that the Clippers lock up the season series with a big home win. Expect both teams to get up for this playoff rematch.
Prediction: The Clippers have found a way to crack the Grit-and-Grind Grizzlies. They will continue replicate their success in a resounding win against Memphis.
When: Friday, March 29
Where: AT&T Center, San Antonio
Record against the San Antonio Spurs this season: 2-1
Breakdown: The Clippers showed their mettle in November when they defeated the San Antonio Spurs twice in the span of six games.
The Spurs quickly righted the ship in the teams’ third meeting, embarrassing the Clippers at home in a 116-90 rout.
Gregg Popovich’s fluid system has caused Vinny Del Negro’s squad headaches. The Spurs recent beat down of Lob City was eerily similar to San Antonio’s four game sweep of the Clippers in last year’s Western Conference semifinals.
This season might prove to be a different story, however.
The Spurs are a sterling 22-2 at home, with one of those losses coming at the hands of LAC. The Clips have won twice in San Antonio in the Chris Paul era and have no fear entering the AT&T Center for a late season matchup.
A win over the Spurs would give the Clips their first regular season series win over the silver and black since the 1996-97 season, the year before Tim Duncan was drafted.
More importantly, a win in San Antonio would give the Clips the confidence that they can compete with this opponent, should they matchup again this postseason.
Prediction: Peaking at the right time, Tony Parker wins the battle of All-NBA point guards. The Spurs handle the Clippers at home.
When: Sunday, March 3
Where: Staples Center
Record against the Thunder this season: 0-2
Breakdown: Despite zero wins over the Oklahoma City Thunder this season, the Clippers actually match up with OKC as well as any team in the league.
Both teams feature athletic personnel, capable long-range shooters and offenses anchored by tremendous point guards.
With Chris Paul in the lineup, the Clips have won three of their five games against the Thunder. In the lone game that Paul has played against the Thunder this season, the Clippers dropped a heartbreaker on the road in overtime.
Where the Thunder best the Clippers is with No. 35, however.
In two games against Lob City, Kevin Durant has been simply unstoppable, averaging 33.5 points on 50 percent shooting.
The Thunder is already guaranteed the season series against the Clippers, but that should not diminish the importance of this game. With the No. 2 seed still up for grabs, the Clippers will need to knock off OKC in this showdown of conference juggernauts.
Barring no upsets, there is a good chance that the Thunder and the Clippers will square off in the second round of the playoffs. Los Angeles cannot afford to drop three in a row to OKC.
Prediction: Chris Paul’s brilliance is too overwhelming for the Thunder defense. CP3 wills the Clips to victory in a close one at Staples Center.