Back when Joe Torre was guiding the baseball team from New York to all those championships, there was one team his squad just couldn't seem to handle. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim had the Yankees' number back then and were the only team to hold a winning record against the Yankee machine during the Torre era.
The Clippers vs. Celtics doesn't hold the same "pizzaz" as a Yankees vs. Angels matchup does. Matter of fact, in the "pizzaz-meter" of one to 10, the matchup between one of the NBA's best and perennial NBA doormat struggles for a rating of 2.3.
Would you believe, however, that in the last eight matchups between the Green Team and Los Angeles red, white and blue, the team with the winning record leans to the left coast?
Clippers four wins, Celtics three.
That's right. The Clippers have won four of the last seven games against the Celtics.
None in more exciting fashion as last nights buzzer beater by a rejuvenated Baron Davis.
It's rare in sports to see a team's fortunes change quickly. When you struggle as a franchise it takes time to turn the tide. When you stay down too long people begin to associate you with failure. Words like "cursed" and "jinxed" are whispered, then over time yelled.
Franchises mired in that mud find themselves battling perception as much as anything else. The battle to turn the tide can take years, decades, or for a certain franchise in Chicago centuries.
That's not to say the fortunes of a franchise can't turn from one season to the next.
I know a man who places a single bet on each division in the major sports leagues each year. He bets $100 on the team that placed last the year before to win it all. The 1991 Word Series pitted the Minnesota Twins against the Atlanta Braves. Both teams finished last in their division in 1990.
Never has a gambler watched a game he bet on without a care in the world who won.
The Twins and Braves however, are the exception, not the norm. Perennial losers have to look for small change while always holding out hope for a lucky bounce—in the form of a draft pick, for example.
That's what excites me about the Clippers' recent win. The win against one the NBA's elite teams is nice. Handing the Celtics only their second road loss was fun to watch. Shooting over fifty percent against the vaunted Celtic defense was sweet and Baron Davis's shot was exciting.
Truth is, even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while.
Yesterday's win meant more. When you look just a little closer, you can see more proof that the tide is turning.
You could see it in the way the team used the road losses in New York and Phoenix as motivation. Perennial losers don't use losses as motivation; they have no motivation.
You could see it in the way the team set a goal that was realistic, but just out of reach. The goal to be a .500 team when Blake Griffin returns has been embraced by the team and serves as another source of motivation.
You could see it when the ping pong ball fell in their favor, resulting in the draft rights to Blake Griffin.
The Clippers of course, still have some odd issues to address. None more odd than the cloud that hovers over the head coach. Dunleavy feels more and more like a lame duck coach. It seems the wheels are in motion, and have been for some time, to have John Lucas take the reigns.
Baron Davis did nothing to thwart that perception after yesterday's win when he said, "If I'm not going to Coach Lucas, I'm going to Ricky. From a player's standpoint, I always ask him what he sees."
He mentioned Ricky Davis but not the head coach? If Vinny Del Negro's seat is set to 450 degrees, Dunleavy's is at 300 or so.
The win was nice and I'm sure the Clippers woke up still savoring it this morning. However, its a blip in the radar. I don't track Clipper wins and losses as much as I track franchise movement.
Seems to me the Clipper franchise took one more positive step away from the miry mud of perennial loser. I'll take that tiny move away from the mud over a win against the Celtics any day.
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