For the first time in franchise history, the Los Angeles Clippers have won the NBA Pacific Division crown. They've also topped 50 wins for the first time since the inception of the organization.
The question is, which version of the L.A. Clippers will we see in the 2013 NBA playoffs?
The Clippers have been magnificent this season, reaching 51-26 overall and creating a quality balance both at home and on the road. They're 30-9 at home and 21-17 when away from L.A.
With that being said, it hasn't been all fun and games for the Clippers.
Outside of their 17-game winning streak from Nov. 28 to Dec. 31, the Clippers are a less impressive 34-26. Over the span of their past 16 games, L.A. is just 8-8.
To put it simply, the Clippers enter the postseason as cold as any team in the NBA.
Fortunately, the Clippers' latest win came by a score of 109-95 against their local rival Los Angeles Lakers. This type of performance is what could push the Clippers back into title contention.
The question is which Clippers squad will we see?
If you're looking for a reason to believe in the Los Angeles Clippers, the numbers are in their favor. Not only are they elite on the offensive end of the floor, but their defensive play is on par with the best in the league.
Statistical analysts rejoice.
On offense, the Clippers are eighth in the NBA in scoring and fifth in team field-goal percentage. They're also fourth in the league in assists per game and fifth in assist-to-turnover ratio.
With rankings of eighth in fast-break points and fifth in points in the paint, the Clippers are a model of dominant efficiency.
On defense, the Clippers continue this elite level of performance. They're fourth in scoring defense, 10th in opponent field-goal percentage, first in steals and seventh in blocks per game.
They're also seventh in opponent second-chance points and opponent fast-break points, as well as second in opponent points in the paint.
The Los Angeles Clippers have proved to be elite in almost every major statistical category. Whether it's offensively or defensively, L.A. can compete with the best in the NBA in virtually every area of the game.
Almost doesn't mean every, though, and L.A. does have significant weaknesses.
What may doom the Clippers during the postseason is the fact that they rank 26th in the NBA in free-throw percentage. This is especially concerning due to their style of play, as the Clippers pound it into the paint and average 23.3 free-throw attempts per game.
The "Hack-a-Shaq" technique could be a detrimental approach.
Furthermore, the Clippers are 27th in the NBA in three-point field-goal percentage. This bodes poorly for them, as L.A. is in a field with five of the league's top 10 three-point shooting teams.
Their weaknesses are on par with the strengths that make the Western Conference so powerful.
Which Version Will We See?
When it comes to the NBA postseason, the Los Angeles Clippers are a difficult team to predict. They're a well-rounded team from a statistical perspective and are led by star performers in Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and Jamal Crawford.
With that being said, the Clippers also possess weaknesses in areas where the elite Western Conference teams have strengths. Just don't think that the numbers are all that matter in this instance.
The Clippers are also coming off of a season in which they made it out of the first round with a significantly weaker roster.
As the standings presently stand, the Clippers would be in store for a rematch with the Memphis Grizzlies. L.A. emerged victorious in seven games in 2012, eventually being swept out by the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference semifinals.
They're on pace to have that same exact draw in 2012-13.
Matched up against the Grizzlies, the Clippers should be able to emerge victorious. Memphis is elite defensively, but on offense, they're 23rd in three-point field-goal percentage.
If L.A. can cut off points in the paint, which they're second in the NBA at doing, they should advance past the first round.
From there, it will be a matter of how healthy the Clippers can be. The likes of Crawford, Matt Barnes, Grant Hill and Ronny Turiaf should make a significant difference as newcomers to the team.
As long as the stars perform up to par, the Clippers will be in title contention.
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