Against the Odds: Can the Clippers get top seed in the West?


Baby steps.

There’s no better way to approach the process of winning a championship for the Clippers. Last season, they made a leap from average to top tier, despite falling to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference semi-finals.

In year two of the Doc Rivers experiment, the goal is now to win a championship. And in that process, the Clippers may be able to snag homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs.

In regards to winning the Western Conference, betting sites have them ranked third in the West with odd of 5-to-1 odds behind the Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs. Considering the Thunder and Spurs have split the top two seeds for the last three seasons, the positioning is reasonable, but in that time, the West has lacked a third team that could join the part up top.

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  • The Clippers have the talent to do that.

    Last season, Los Angeles finished third in the Western Confernce with a record of 57-26, three games behind OKC and five games behind SAS. At home and on the road, two key components in winning big, the Clippers excelled, finishing top-5 in each sector.

    Now, with an improved frontcourt (they’ve added Chris Douglas-Roberts, Spencer Hawes, Ekpe Udoh), an improved backup point guard (transitioned from Darren Collison to Jordan Farmar), and another year of continuity under their belt, it’s not insane to assume improvement from last years position; especially if healthy plays in their favor — last season, Chris Paul and J.J. Redick missed a combined 50-plus games.

    We’re familiar with the adage of “defense winning championships.” In the regular season, offense is often connected to winning games and the Clippers? They’re far from short in that category. Last season, Los Angeles finished with the best offensive rating in the league at 109.4.

    Against the top-2 teams from each conference (Indiana, Miami, San Antonio, Oklahoma City), the Clippers posted a cumulative record of 3-8

    The Indiana Pacers showed us a stifling, historic defense can also win you games. The Clippers are greatly improving in that area. They’re no Indy, but the off-season showed the defense should be trending in the right direction. Farmar’s a grade up from Collison, Douglas-Roberts and Reggie Bullock should improve wing defense after a year of Jared Dudley, and Ekpe’s Udoh rim protection, if given the minutes, could single-handily help transform this defense from good to great.

    Combining a great defense with what could be a great defense is the perfect equation to win a handful of games.

    Their biggest need of improvement? Winning games against teams that are good.

    Last season, the Clippers posted a record of 32-7 against teams with a record below .500. But above .500? 25-18. Against the top-2 teams from each conference (Indiana, Miami, San Antonio, Oklahoma City), the Clippers posted a cumulative record of 3-8 — to be fair, two of the games against San Antonio and Miami came in Paul’s absence.

    Great teams beat great teams. It’s as simple as that. Does beating them prove anything in regards to a championship? No, but if anything, these games serve as a great litmus test for what’s to come in the postseason and builds much needed confidence for a group that has lacked in that department.

    Winning the top seed in the Western Conference doesn’t guarantee a championship — only San Antonio (2014), Los Angeles (2009, 2010), have both won a championship while toppling the West — but it’s a step in the right direction.

    And if health forbids, we could be seeing the Clippers claiming homecourt throughout the playoffs.

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