USSDU looks at the potential playoffs match-ups for the Los Angeles Clippers in Part Two of the series.[caption id="attachment_14079" align="aligncenter" width="519"] Photo Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports USA TODAY Sports[/caption] In Part One we looked at the team and who they are, now we examine the remaining schedule and the potential playoff match-ups. Currently sitting at 34-13, they are 3rd in the West but what stands in their way?
THE SCHEDULEThe Clippers full season schedule can be viewed here and it looks to be a fairly tough finish for them as they play 19 of their final 35 games on the road. Although they face some teams that are struggling this season (New Orleans, Dallas, Utah and Sacramento) you never know what might go on around the trade deadline and end of season games can be tricky. ESPN, using John Hollinger's Playoffs Odds have them pegged at finishing 58-24 and maintaining 3rd in the Western Conference, which is roughly where I pegged them after going through their remaining schedule. To maintain consistency throughout the article I will be referencing these odds to predict potential playoffs match-ups (and also save some time in calculating every teams predicted records).
PLAYOFFS - ROUND ONE vs WARRIORSUsing the playoffs odds and predicted finish, the Clippers will be facing the Warriors in Round One, a team that can certainly threaten the Clippers. There are so many unknown variables that could influence what happens between now and the end of the season so for consistency I will be assuming each team is playing with a full strength squad. Keys to the Series 3 Point Shooting - The Warriors are incredible with their 3PT shooting this season with their back-court of Curry and Thompson nailing 256 combined (ranked 2nd and 3rd in the NBA) at an average of 42%. Add in Harrison Barnes, Richard Jefferson and Jarrett Jack and you have a formidable threat from beyond the arc. Unfortunately though for the Clippers they rank 9th in opponent 3P% allowed according to Hoopdata.com (the Warriors are ranked #1 in 3PT shooting) so the Clippers will have to have their rotations bang on to limit the damage done from outside. Battle of the Big Men - David Lee is a double double machine every night and has an array of tricks that befuddle the best defensive specialists. His match-up with Blake Griffin should be a battle for the ages with both big men knowing how to put points on the board. Andrew Bogut provides something that the Warriors haven't had in a long time, a presence in the paint and great rebounding. If he is matched up against DeAndre Jordan for long stretches then his bulk and play-making abilities will dismantle the lanky Jordan. Chris Paul vs Steph Curry - As mentioned before Steph Curry is lights out from beyond the arc but Chris Paul is the league leader in steals so Curry won't be left wide open all the time. Curry is also not your super fast, super athletic point guard that CP3 typically struggles against so this should give him more energy to concentrate on the offensive end. If they end up sticking Curry in pick and roll situations then CP3 will take a big advantage and should have his choice of easy pass or layup/floater. Series Prediction - This one will be close but I predict a 4-3 win for the Clippers given their home court advantage and the Warriors lack of playoff experience.
PLAYOFFS - SEMI-FINAL vs SAN ANTONIO SPURSI know ESPN have OKC as 2nd in the West but it's a dead heat and I think Pop might rest his starters late in the season so I have ranked the Spurs as #2, meaning they face the Rockets in R1 (and beat them). The Clippers have unfinished business against the Spurs after a 4-0 sweep in last seasons semi-final series but they also have a much better roster this season. Keys to the Series Chris Paul vs Tony Parker - Both guards are similar as they both love to penetrate the interior for layups but can easily hurt you with a jump shot. CP3 had a shocking series last playoffs against the Spurs and I'm sure will be looking to make amends if these two teams face off again. The Benches - The biggest difference between the Clippers of 11/12 and 12/13 is the improved bench. Having a stellar cast of talented players coming off the bench is a significant improvement over what they had last season (Reggie Evans, Nick Young etc). Look for the Clippers to run and gun with their high jumping, high scoring bench tribe to really press home this advantage. Coaching - Vinnie Del Negro has done a great job of organising this super group so far this season but how will he react in the playoffs? Sometimes his decisions are a bit confusing but his new simple (not basic) style means the players have more control and thus more responsibility to do the right thing. We all know Coach Pop is one of the all time greats so if Del Negro can keep up his improved coaching then the Clippers are in with a shot. Series Prediction - The Clippers are a better all round team this season and seem to have the number on the Spurs so far. I'm predicting a 4-2 series win for the Clippers despite not having home court advantage. So with the Clippers predicted to moveon to the Western Conference Finals stayed tuned for Part Three and the conclusion of my season predictions for this 2012/13 Clippers squad.
How do you think the Clippers will fare in the playoffs? Post your thoughts in the comments section below.