Smith: Clippers dark horse in NBA Playoffs
Keegan Smith | Friday, April 26, 2019
35.5. That is how many wins the Westgate Superbook in Las Vegas projected for the 2018-19 Los Angeles Clippers. They were projected to be one of the worst teams in the Western Conference, making their hopes of entering the playoffs a long shot to put it lightly.
In recent seasons, the Clippers franchise has been nothing short of a disappointment. For years, their dominant core of Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan found themselves at the top of the Western Conference only to lose in dramatic fashion in the playoffs. The Clippers have since broken up the once-elite big three in an attempt to reinvent their team. In their first season without Griffin, Paul and Jordan, the Clippers have flipped the script. After so many years of underachieving, Los Angeles has put together a team that is better than most experts could have imagined — without an all-star caliber player.
Despite a 30-25 start (which, in all honesty, was an overachieving start), the Clippers decided to trade forward Tobias Harris for a slew of role players. Surely Harris was their best player at the time, and with the move, Los Angeles all but wrote themselves off as title contenders, knowing how good the competition was in the Western Conference.
During the two months between the trade deadline and the NBA Playoffs, many thought the Clippers would lay down, giving a team like the Lakers or the Kings a chance to salvage an eighth seed for the postseason. However, the Clippers and their gritty core of Lou Williams, Danilo Gallinari and Montrezl Harrell simply continued to win. In fact, Los Angeles finished the season 14 games above .500 — more than enough to earn them a playoff spot in the Western Conference. They now find themselves matched up against the Golden State Warriors in the first round of Western Conference postseason play.
After an improbable 31-point comeback in game two and a win at Golden State on Wednesday, the Clippers now find themselves just one game behind the top-seeded Warriors. With the series sitting at 3-2, Los Angeles will have an opportunity Friday to even things on their home court and force a game seven.
While this Clippers team is by no means the most talented in the NBA, they continue to piece together scrappy wins that have them climbing the ranks of the NBA world. There is really no good explanation for what the Clippers are doing and how they are doing it. Doc Rivers has his team playing at an extremely high level in a series where their skill is clearly outmatched. Regardless of whether or not the Clippers are able to accomplish this amazing feat, they have already defied the odds in avoiding a sweep. As a non-superteam, the Clippers currently find themselves on the outside looking — but they may have a legitimate chance to beat what is considered to be one of the best basketball teams ever assembled.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.