In a matter of weeks, the 2013 NBA playoffs will officially begin. While the Miami Heat have taken the Eastern Conference by storm, the West remains open for discussion with an abundance of contenders.
Which teams should the Clippers be hoping to avoid come the postseason?
To be clear, the Clippers have the raw ability to defeat any caliber opponent. With that being said, the Clippers will enter the postseason with the same concerns as every other contender.
In a postseason setting where matchups are everything, there are certain teams that could give L.A. trouble.
While it would be easy to acknowledge the trouble with drawing the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder, those two teams' status as elite is clear. The true question for L.A. is which of the not-so-obvious contenders could take them down.
That is a question that we can only answer once we identify L.A.'s strengths and weaknesses.
To profile the Clippers, it's important to note that they are one of the most balanced teams in the NBA. L.A. ranks eighth in scoring offense, fourth in scoring defense and 10th in opponent field-goal percentage.
The Clippers are also fourth in assists and first in both steals and turnovers forced.
As the numbers display, Los Angeles has dominated opponents on both ends of the floor. The Clippers force turnovers, disrupt field-goal attempts, score at a high clip and move the ball.
Even as one of the most balanced teams in the league, however, the Clippers have flaws—issues that can be exposed during the postseason.
During the 2013 NBA postseason, the Los Angeles Clippers defeated the Memphis Grizzlies by a count of 4-3. That was a series that saw the Clippers come back from 27 points down to win Game 1.
The Clippers also blew a 3-1 series lead and held on to win Game 7—shortly thereafter, they were swept out of the playoffs by the San Antonio Spurs.
With all of this being established, the Clippers are a much better team in 2012-13 than they were in 2011-12. Unfortunately for those who believe playing Memphis would be a potential cakewalk, as are the Grizzlies.
Despite trading Rudy Gay, the Grizzlies have improved their win percentage by .046 over the past year and have already won four more road games.
The key in this potential matchup is the battle of interior forces. The Grizzlies have two All-Stars with Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, while the Clippers possess All-Star Blake Griffin and athletic dynamo DeAndre Jordan.
With that being said, there is one major difference between the two tandems—Memphis is far superior in the half court.
Gasol is not only an elite defender, but he's a world class facilitator and back-to-the-basket scorer. The same can be said for Randolph, who is a nightly threat to go for 20 points and 10 assists.
The Clippers' mediocre half-court offense could be their undoing against a Grizzlies team that knows how to slow it down against open-court terrors such as L.A.
The Denver Nuggets are one of the hottest teams in the NBA. They're 33-9 in 2013 and 50-24 during the season, and they have transformed transition prowess into all-around brilliance.
They've defeated the Clippers twice, earning double-digit victories in each of those instances.
This has to be of concern for the Clippers, as they too thrive in transition. The truth of the matter is, Denver's starless roster has proven to be one of the most efficient transition teams in the league.
The Nuggets rank third in scoring offense and fifth in field-goal percentage.
On paper, Los Angeles matches up well against Denver. It owns positional advantages across the board and is a far superior defensive unit.
With two consecutive double-digit losses to the Nuggets, however, the Clippers have cause for concern.
As competitors, the Los Angeles Clippers have every reason to desire a series against the Golden State Warriors. If we're believing that history dictates future occurrences, however, one thing is clear.
The Warriors have the Clippers' number in 2012-13.
Golden State defeated L.A. in three of the four games that the two teams played this season. That includes wins by scores of 114-110, 115-94 and 106-99.
Fortunately for the Clippers, their lone win came in emphatic fashion—a 115-89 domination.
The Warriors gave the Clippers trouble in two specific areas in their three victories. The first is along the interior, where All-Star power forward David Lee has been a dominant force all season.
The other area is three-point shooting, where the Warriors are elite and the Clippers are rather average.
Golden State ranks first in three-point field-goal percentage and eighth in three-point field goals made per game. The Clippers rank 10th in three-point field goals made, but they're also 20th in three-point field-goal percentage.
When it becomes a shootout, the Warriors will consistently emerge victorious.
That's the danger for the Clippers in a series against the Warriors. When Golden State is not dominating with the three-point shot, Lee is a dominant offensive force in the half court.
The Clippers will be the favored team, but the Warriors are a dangerous opponent.