What would a first round matchup against the Warriors mean for the Clippers?
Midway through the season, it is time to compile a wish list of potential playoff opponents for the Los Angeles Clippers.
When healthy, Lob City can make its case as the class of the conference. Already this season, Los Angeles has defeated the San Antonio Spurs, the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Memphis Grizzlies and the Houston Rockets twice.
Injuries to Chris Paul and J.J. Redick have stymied their progression, however. The Clips are just 5-4 against the other teams in the top six of the conference. Leading the Pacific Division, Los Angeles owns the third-highest point differential in the conference, only behind San Antonio and Oklahoma City.
Ultimately, the road to the finals looks like it will go through either San Antonio or Oklahoma City. Los Angeles will have to prove its championship mettle by knocking off at least one of those teams this postseason.
The Western Conference playoffs will surely be brutal, and playoff seeding may be key if the Clips hope to make a long run.
So who does Lob City want to face in the playoffs? Who would the Clips be heavy favorites against? Conversely, who might Lob City want to avoid at all costs in the first round of the playoffs?
We will discuss three teams that Los Angeles would want to face, followed by two matchups that could seriously jeopardize the Clips’ potential to advance out of the first round.
All statistics accurate as of January 26, 2014. Statistics used from NBA.com and ESPN.com.
The Clippers match up well with the Mavericks.
Record against Dallas this season: 2-0
Breakdown: Having defeated the Dallas Mavericks twice this season, Dirk and Co. would provide a decent matchup for Lob City.
The Clippers have defeated the Mavs by only a combined nine points this season, and by only two points in their first matchup in Los Angeles. When Chris Paul went down with a shoulder injury in the first half, the rest of the team picked up the slack in a 119-112 win in Big D. Sans CP3, the teams’ second matchup featured an unbelievable fourth-quarter comeback in a 129-127 Clippers’ victory at Staples Center.
The Clippers took two of three from Dallas last season, with their lone loss on the road in overtime. Since Paul made his way to Hollywood, the Clippers are 6-2 against the Mavericks.
The Clippers should hope they see the Mavericks this spring.
Despite defeating the Wolves three times this season, Lob City has had no answer for Kevin Love.
Record against Minnesota this season: 3-0
Breakdown: Having already won the first three of their four matchups with the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Clippers would be lucky to face the Wolves in the postseason.
Since dropping three of four games against Minnesota in the 2011-12 season, the Clips have defeated the Wolves in seven straight contests. Even with Lob City’s success, all three games have been close, however.
The Clippers won the first matchup 109-107 but needed some serious heroics in the next two games. Struggling to break away, CP3 scored 12 straight points in the final four minutes to hold off the upstart Wolves in a 102-98 road victory.
In their third win, the Clippers survived a 45-point, 19-rebound onslaught from Kevin Love and needed a Paul miracle steal to hold off Minnesota.
Love is one player that the Clips certainly struggle to defend. This season, the UCLA standout is averaging a monster 26.0 points, 16.7 rebounds and 7.0 assists against the Clippers.
Still, Lob City seems to know how to let Love get his while holding off the rest of the team.
The Suns dominated the Clippers in Eric Bledsoe's homecoming.
Record against Phoenix this season: 0-1
Breakdown: The Clippers were absolutely dominated by the Phoenix Suns in their lone matchup this season.
In Eric Bledsoe’s homecoming, the Suns were all over the Clips en route to a 107-88 rout at Staples Center. That game was probably the worst loss of the season for the Clips, as Goran Dragic eviscerated Los Angeles to the tune of 26 points, eight assists and five steals.
No Clipper could get it going that game, as Paul and Griffin combined for just 26 points, nine rebounds and eight assists on a putrid 10-of-29 shooting from the field. The creative destruction of Bledsoe, combined with the craftiness of Dragic and the athleticism of the Morris twins could pose some serious matchup problems in the playoffs.
Nevertheless, the Suns are by far the most inexperienced team in contention for a Western Conference playoff spot. Although they have overachieved throughout the season, they will be huge underdogs against any of the West’s top four teams.
Outside of Dragic’s herculean fourth quarter in Game 3 of the 2010 Western Conference semifinals against the Spurs, no Sun has had any major playoff success.
The Clips would love to face an inexperienced Phoenix ballclub in the first round of the postseason.
Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph know how to beat up on the Clippers.
Record against Memphis this season: 1-1
Breakdown: Having eliminated each other from the postseason the last two years, the Memphis Grizzlies have become Lob City’s playoff rival.
Last postseason, the Clippers struggled to contain both Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. After going up 2-0 in the series, the Clips quickly dropped four in a row, as they watched Memphis waltz into the second round.
Randolph beat up on the Clippers down low, averaging 20.8 points and 8.0 rebounds in the six-game series.
Gasol was just as dominant operating out of the high post. The reigning Defensive Player of the Year tore up the Clippers, averaging 17.3 points, 7.5 boards and 3.3 assists.
In their first matchup of this season, the story was much of the same.
The Grizzlies beat the Clips 106-102, handing Los Angeles its first home loss of the season. Led by a combined 49 points, 24 rebounds and 11 assists from Randolph and Gasol, the Grizzlies jumped all over the Clips.
With Gasol sidelined by injury, the Clippers got some revenge in Memphis, defeating the Grizz 101-81 in December. While the Clippers certainly have the firepower to outscore the Grizzlies, they should hope to avoid Memphis in the postseason.
The Dubs pose some difficult matchup problems for the Clippers.
Record against Golden State this season: 1-1
Breakdown: Although it would be highly entertaining, the Clippers would be wise to avoid their division rivals in the postseason.
Averaging 24.1 points, 4.6 boards and 9.3 assists, Curry has deservedly earned his first career All-Star start. He has been absolutely prolific against the Clippers this season, averaging 26.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 10.0 assists in the two matchups.
The Warriors seem to be one of the few teams that give the Clips serious problems. Last season, Lob City dropped three of four games against the Dubs; Los Angeles has not won a game at Oracle Arena since Christmas 2012.
After witnessing what Curry and Co. did to the Denver Nuggets last postseason, and almost did to the Spurs, NBA teams are still figuring out how to slow down Golden State.
The Clips should be weary of getting into a postseason shootout with their Bay Area rivals.