It took the Los Angeles Clippers 76 games to adapt to former Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers hard-nosed brand of basketball, in Hollywood. The team entered the 2013-14 season with many unanswered questions, many of which had perennial all-stars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin at the forefront.
Will Doc and CP3 co-exist? Both are passionate about the game of basketball, and elevating teams to elite caliber. Rivers has definitely proven so, with two NBA Finals trips in Boston, and one NBA title. Paul is still waiting to find the championship glory that has eluded him in his nine seasons.
Will the pressure of winning prove too much for the franchise to handle? A team that has been sharing both its arena and time in Los Angeles with the Lakers is finally compiling winning seasons. In 2011-12, they were 40-26, and followed up that season at 56-26. This season seems to be even better, as they are 54-23, and are third place in the Western Conference. The 2013-14 season marks their third straight winning year.
Both players have lived up to the high expectations, thus far. Paul is logging 19 points and 10.9 assists per game. He seems to be recovering well from his early season shoulder injury.
It’s been a career year for Griffin, as he has posted 24 points per game on 53 percent shooting. Amazing stats for a player who has been pegged as “only a dunker.” One of the improvements on the year would include Griffin’s free-throw shooting, which he as raised from 66 percent to 71 during his 76 games this year. The Most Valuable Player race should definitely include the high-flyer, as he carried much of the team’s offensive load during Chris Paul’s absence.
Defensively, the Clippers are right outside the top five, with a defensive efficiency of 101.5. DeAndre Jordan has anchored the frontcourt, leading the way with nearly three blocks per contest. Jordan is also the league leader in 13.9 rebounds per game. Much of the success in the paint has made it easier for their perimeter depth to maintain that same intensity. The team has found the formula on this end of the floor, and it should pay dividends going into the playoffs.
The Clippers are currently one of five teams to have surpassed the 50-win mark for the year, along with the Miami Heat, San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder, and Indiana Pacers. Injuries have been a concern for the Clippers this season, with the list of players including Matt Barnes, J.J. Redick, and the aforementioned Chris Paul missing a total of 81 regular season contests. Redick returned to the floor from a bulging disk Thursday night against the Dallas Mavericks.
A talented roster, combined with veterans, conjures a possibility that we could be watching the OTHER team in L.A., well into June. As we approach the season’s end, recovery from injuries and remaining cohesive have fans are looking forward to the start of the playoffs. The Western Conference is filled with tough matchups from top to bottom, with the Clippers possibly on crash course with the up-tempo Golden State Warriors. Doc Rivers will have to spark his team’s competitive fire, and share his glories of championship gold, from the days in TD Garden.