After two very impressive wins at home against the San Antonio Spurs and New Orleans Pelicans, the Clippers have a very important stretch of games leading up to the new year. The Clippers have demonstrated during the course of the 2013-14 season that they are one of the best teams in the league. Despite playing in a brutal Western Conference that is rich with talent, the Clippers are within striking distance of the top three squads in the West. Their top guns are finally complemented with role players who could eventually lead them to a finals berth. The Clippers have six games leading up to the end of the year, five of which have records either at or above the .500 mark. This stretch for the team will be very important as they will be facing some of the Western Conference’s top competition, including the league’s best team in the Portland Trail Blazers. How the Clippers will fare will be entirely dependent on their team defense as most of the teams they play average over 100 points per game and feature some of the league’s most athletic and talented players.
Dec. 21 (vs. Denver)
The Denver Nuggets started off slow this season posting a 4-6 record through their first 10 games, a mark that certainly seemed disappointing for a team that had made the playoffs for the last nine seasons. They have rebounded since that point and now hold a record of 14-10 and are the first on the Clippers’ very formidable opponents. The Nuggets have a plethora of offensive talent, like the Clippers, and give up close to 100 points per game, like the Clippers. This will definitely prove to be a high scoring game; the team who will emerge victorious will be kept under 100 points and contained from the three-point arc. Since the Clippers have given up over 100 points only three times this season (vs. Indiana, @ Atlanta and @ Brooklyn), they are more than likely to contain the high-powered offense of the Nuggets. In order for the Clippers to compete, they will have to suppress quick, high-scoring guard Ty Lawson, who is averaging close to 20 points and 8 assists per game. In addition, the high-flying frontcourt of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan must continue to dominate on the rebounding as well as the defensive side. A victory in this game could prove to be very influential for the Clippers as it would build solid momentum for the tough games ahead.
Dec 22 (vs. Minnesota)
It’s hard to believe that with all the talent Minnesota possesses that their record currently stands at 13-13. Most believed that with a healthy Kevin Love combined with an extremely talented passer in Ricky Rubio, they would fight for a mid to low seed in the Western Conference. Despite their setbacks, the Timberwolves have all the offensive talent necessary to take down the Clippers. Their defense, however, is not so great. Minnesota gives up 102 points per game, which ranks No. 26 in the league. The Clippers average 104.3 points per game, which ranks No. 5 in the league. Theses numbers do not bode well for the T-Wolves. Chris Paul will feast on a methodically slow Ricky Rubio while the battle of the frontcourts in Blake and DeAndre vs. K-Love and Nikola Pekovic will provide all the entertainment for the evening. The Clippers will have a handful with Love, but the entire Wolves team will have to worry about the surplus of Clipper offensive talent.
Dec. 25 (@Golden State Warriors)
Merry Christmas. Our gift: another great shootout between two of the Western Conference’s best scoring teams. Here’s a fun statistic: Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry have combined to make 157 three-pointers this season. The Warriors are another team that gives up over 100 points a game, which the Clippers feast off. This game will almost surely be a match of who can score the most. Blake and DeAndre will have their hands full with David Lee and Andrew Bogut while the back-court will be busy fighting off one, two and three screens for Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. This game will be a great Christmas present, whether you’re a Clippers/Warriors fan or not.
Dec. 26 (@ Portland Trail Blazers)
This quite possibly may be the toughest game of the season for the Clippers, for two reasons. First, it’s the Blazers; they hold the best record in the league at 22-5. They have only lost two games at home while holding one of the most proficient offenses in the league. Second, it’s on the road. The Clippers are only 8-7 on the road this season and going into Portland will certainly be a tough task for them.Damian Lillard holds the league lead of three-pointers made with 83. He has made buzzer-beater after buzzer-beater as he is quickly becoming one of the league’s best point guards. The duel between him and Chris Paul will definitely make for good television. With a victory against the Spurs, the Clippers have gained the confidence to go into this game with their chest out in confidence. The only struggle for them will be a holiday hangover. This will be their fourth game in six days and the fatigue could very well set it.
Dec. 28 (vs. Utah Jazz)
Let’s make this one short and sweet. Without being overly negative and pessimistic, the Utah Jazz really suck. Was that too mean? The Jazz hold the second worst record in the league at 7-21 and have shown absolutely no signs of life this season. They are third to last in points scored per game (93.1) as they, quite frankly, have no true scorer in uniform. As the Jazz attempt to rebuild for the future, there will inevitably be some seasons where the Jazz struggle greatly to even make people remember they’re an NBA team. A quick message to the Clippers: don’t lose this game.
Dec. 30 (vs. Phoenix Suns)
This could be one of the better games before the mark of the New Year for the Clippers. Former Clipper Eric Bledsoe has definitely made his mark on the league this year 19.2 points, 6.4 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game, all of these marks being leaps and bounds above his career average. The Suns are surprising post people this year while posting a 14-10 record and holding the seventh position in the Western Conference playoff ladder. Rounding out the year, the Clippers will have to put forth their best effort against the run-and-gun Suns in order to finish the holiday season on a high note. I expect Bledsoe to come into LA with a bit of a chip on his shoulder and have a marvelous game while playing against his former team that traded him this offseason. What a great final game this should be.