Thus far in 2012-13, the Los Angeles Clippers are 44-20 overall. They're 24-7 at home, 20-13 on the road and 27-12 against the Western Conference.
With those numbers and more, the Clippers are proving that they're ready to push for the 2013 NBA title.
Throughout the duration of the season, the Clippers have been one of the most difficult teams to gauge. For every remarkable win has come a head-scratching loss, which has some believing that postseason legitimacy is but a dream for L.A.
If there's anything we've learned about the Clippers, however, it's that they're remarkably resilient.
From Jan. 21 to Feb. 8, the Clippers lost eight of 11 games. In that time, Chris Paul was absent for all but two of those outings.
To be fair, resiliency is only necessary when you're in the process of being knocked down. With that being said, the Clippers are as consistent as any at getting up when it seems impossible to stand.
They're achieving such extraordinary feats by learning from their weaknesses before it's too late.
Exposed Before the Playoffs
Are the Los Angeles Clippers legitimate title contenders?
On Feb. 21, the Clippers lost to the San Antonio Spurs by a score of 116-90. On March 3, the Clippers trailed the Oklahoma City Thunder throughout and eventually saw a comeback bid fall short at 108-104.
Most recently, the Clippers lost 107-92 at the Denver Nuggets last night (March 7). So what makes them a legitimate title threat?
To put it simply, this is the perfect time to falter.
The Clippers may be displaying weaknesses, but they're doing so when they should be. As we all know about the playoffs, timing happens to be everything.
For the Clippers, the postseason is 18 games away. While that may seem like no time at all, its a lifetime for a team that only recently reached full health.
From today until the season finale on April 17, the Clippers will be able to dissect every weakness and improve upon it—all because of their February and early-March woes.
Rather than learn of weaknesses in the midst of a postseason series, the Clippers are being exposed during the regular season. This gives the team the opportunity to study film and fix these issues in 18 whole games.
For those who don't believe that to be a factor, study the 2012 Miami Heat—they're just one example of title teams that needed a rude awakening.
On March 25 and Mar 26 of 2012, the Miami Heat lost by 16 points to the Oklahoma City Thunder and 15 points to the Indiana Pacers. In the days following, the Heat were labeled as a team that couldn't handle a physical style of defensive play.
Come the postseason, Miami took both teams down en route to an NBA championship.
The Clippers may not be the Heat, but they're not too far from it. In fact, L.A. has proven to be of an elite nature when it comes to two-way dominance.
Much like the Heat, there aren't many areas they don't thrive.
Balance and Dominance
The Los Angeles Clippers are often perceived as a team that is limited to "Lob City." Considering they dominate the highlight reels on SportsCenter and YouTube with high-flying dunks, that's a fair assumption for those unfamiliar.
With that being said, you're ill-informed if you plan on proceeding with that train of thought.
When it comes to the Clippers, it all starts on defense. If you believe that to be a fallacy, check the numbers and proceed with shock and awe.
L.A. ranks fourth in the NBA in scoring defense, eighth in opponent field goal percentage and first in turnovers forced per game.
With this in mind, it's hardly inconceivable for the Clippers to make a run for the title. If defense wins championships, then there is no reason that L.A.'s elite group can't hold true to that phrase.
It just so happens that they're dominant on offense, too.
L.A. is currently ninth in scoring offense, fifth in field goal percentage and ninth in free throw attempts per game. According to the advanced statistics, they're also sixth in points per shot attempt.
Dominant, balanced and efficient—the true makings of a title contender.
Where It Goes Wrong
Now that we've established how ready the players on this team are for a postseason push, we must acknowledge another factor. That, of course, is the lack of a true and defined system in Los Angeles.
No matter how great he may be, Chris Paul doesn't count as one.
Shaq said he loves the Clippers players but says a lack of a system is what's holding them back. Says this style won't beat SAS, OKC or MIA.— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) March 8, 2013
That's a dangerous truth.
The Clippers possess the talent to defeat the San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder and Miami Heat. The question is, do they have a designed system that can enable their offense to thrive in key situations?
Quite frankly, they don't.
The Clippers are an elite defensive team that consistently smother elite opponents on that end of the floor. This will keep them in postseason games and present them with opportunities to win against any caliber opponent.
The question is, how well will isolation sets work for the team when the transition game is limited?
There is no denying how capable Chris Paul is of running an offense. Even if the system is to run the game through his abilities, CP3 knows how to make it work.
When it comes to playoff basketball, however, individuals take a back seat to systems—we've seen it time and time again.
The Clippers have the personnel to thrive in any design. The true question is, how will the team react when a defense steps up against Paul and limits his contributions?
For a team as resilient as L.A., there's reason to believe they will find a way in the coming weeks—for that reason, they remain a legitimate title contender.