After watching the Clippers dispatch the Golden State Warriors 111-98 last night, they convinced me they are championship material. Not that they will win the title, mind you. But they are one of the few teams that actually have more than a prayer of winning the final NBA game of the season.
Early in the season, they were a team in flux. Sometimes it bordered on shitty. Like how they lost at Cleveland 88-82 in December. Or how they lost in Orlando in their fifth game of the season. Or that embarrassing opening night loss against the Lakers. Their offense was off kilter with the additions of JJ Redick, Darren Collison and Jared Dudley, looking a shadow of their high-flying thrill ride from last season. And the defense promised by hiring Doc Rivers as the head coach looked like a project that would take years to build.
So even as they started piling up wins, the jarring memories of those three losses couldn’t be erased. Sure they were scoring a lot. It’s hard to ignore those Blake Griffin highlights. I know Charles Barkley has proclaimed the Clippers as the best team in the West. But the defense?
Last night in the fourth quarter, it showed up. For three quarters it was a back and forth game with 21 lead changes and 12 ties. The Warriors led by as many as seven points, and the Clippers ended the quarter with a 84-79 lead — their biggest lead of the game.
They never looked back.
There were two blocked shots and four steals. They held Golden State to 30.8% shooting. The Clippers outscored the Warriors 27-19 in the frame, and I finally bought in to what Charles has been selling.
The Clippers are a great team. They’re starting to look like what we think of a Doc Rivers team: skilled yet tough. They have incredible depth — after the trade deadline they managed to nab Glen “Big Baby” Davis, Danny Granger and Hedu Turkoglu. And they can turn misses into this:
That doesn’t mean I’m rooting for them. It’s hard to root for success of a person as odious as Clippers owner Donald Sterling. Here’s a whole listing from Deadspin that enumerates what a shitbag he is. I’m rooting for this guy to win?
The Clippers are a fun team to watch. They make basketball fun to watch as opposed to anything a Ben Howland-coached team could produce.
Fuck Donald Sterling.