The Los Angeles Clippers clinched the Pacific Division title with a 112-108 comeback win over the Phoenix Suns on April 2, and while that’s certainly a noteworthy achievement, it’s evident that the accomplishment is secondary to L.A.’s other goals.
According to ESPN’s Arash Markazi, head coach Doc Rivers was surprised to hear his squad won the division.
“I didn’t know about it,” Rivers said. “It’s always nice to win whatever you win, but it’s clearly not what we’re playing for so I don’t see why we should bring out the party hats. You only get one shot at the end and I think we’ll wait for that.”
The coach isn’t the only person keeping his eyes on the ultimate prize, though.
“It’s nice I guess, but it doesn’t really mean much,” All-Star point guard Chris Paul said of winning the division, per Markazi. “We won the division last year and lost in the first round.”
In fact, the Clippers haven’t won a single postseason game past the first round since CP3 arrived in Los Angeles for the 2011-12 season. The accomplished floor general is looking to change that narrative in 2014.
Veteran forward Matt Barnes echoed the stance of his coach and All-Star teammate by saying the following, per Markazi:
Granted, the organization hasn’t accomplished much, but they’ve put a great team together and we expect much more out of ourselves. Those small things like winning streaks and division titles and playoff berths don’t mean much. We expect a championship. We don’t talk about let’s get this division banner. We talk about let’s get this championship banner.
Blake Griffin reverberated the stance of his coach and teammates by saying, “It’s an accomplishment and something to be proud of but by no means is that what we’re aiming for. We have much bigger goals.”
At 54-23 overall, the Clips hold the third-best record in the Western Conference. They’re 2.5 games back of the second-place Oklahoma City Thunder and 5.5 games behind the first-place San Antonio Spurs.
The Clippers held a reputation as an NBA doormat for many years. Now they’ve flipped the script by focusing on winning the first championship in franchise history, which won’t be an easy task.
Also, it’s logical to believe they’d have to get through the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder, barring an upset. The Clippers are 3-3 this season against those two foes.
The Clippers should be commended for their indifference to winning the Pacific Division. That accomplishment truly doesn’t mean much for a team with championship aspirations.
Nevertheless, L.A. will have to walk the walk by at least making a deep playoff run—something it hasn’t been able to do in the CP3 era.