The Boston Celtics were soundly trounced by 29 points at the hands of the Clippers in Los Angeles on Thursday. The win extends the Clippers’ franchise record streak to 15 games while dropping the Celtics back to the .500 mark. While few will compare this team to the 1972 Los Angeles Lakers who won an NBA record 33 games, this deep, talented and versatile team is proving to be a legitimate contender for an NBA title.
As initial glance, the Clippers appear to be a solid two-man tandem of All Star point guard Chris Paul and budding superstar Blake Griffin. Upon closer inspection, the Clippers possess offensive explosiveness with the likes of the aforementioned Paul and Griffin; along with sixth man extraordinaire Jamal Crawford coupled with a defensive prowess anchored by swingman Matt Barnes and center DeAndre Jordan.
The roster as currently constituted can go 10 players deep on any given night and not lose much in terms of productivity’ with Barnes, Crawford, Lamar Odom and newly returning Chauncey Billups among the rotation players that head coach Vinny DelNegro can call upon. This complimentary balance has resulted in the team ranking in the top five in points scored and points allowed; as well as lead the league in point differential (10.3 ppg). Over the past 20 years, only two franchises (Celtics, Bulls) have had a point differential of 10 points or more; all of them becoming eventual champions.
After a brief return from Achilles surgery, Billups has again been inactive as a result of an inflamed foot tendon. As good at the Clippers have been to date; the addition of an NBA Finals MVP into the rotation will make this team an even tougher opponent in the weeks to come.
What was apparent on Thursday was that the Clippers were playing at a tempo far faster and surprisingly more efficient than that of the seasoned Celtics squad. Whether the team was attacking the basket, or hitting consistently from the perimeter; no matter what Celtics’ head coach Doc Rivers tried, the Clippers appeared unaffected.
So how far can this perennial league doormat advance this season? If history is any indication, young and newly assembled teams have to go through a development phase where they must learn to lose before they can learn to win. With teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder San Antonio Spurs among others that are not only talented but playoff tested, the Clippers may be a year away from making a serious run at a title.
Whether or not the Los Angeles Clippers will eclipse their Staples Center co-tenant as the best team in the city at the end of the season, one thing is certainly clear; the former league laughing stock is now a team that may get the last laugh.
Scott Duhaime is a passionate fan of the Boston Celtics and avid follower of the NBA for over 30 years; witnessing five of Boston’s 17 championships. His professional career includes a solid foundation of analytics that contributes to a better appreciation of player and team contributions.
Follow Scott on Twitter: @scott_duhaime
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