Clippers’ Backcourt Are Primed For NBA Playoff Success


The 2014-15 Los Angeles Clippers have excelled in one area all year long; offense. That much seems obvious. But what may be surprising is that they have been just as good, if not better, in this area than the best team in the league, the Golden State Warriors. The Clippers’ even have the best offensive rating in the league. So no matter how much people want to hype up Stephen Curry for MVP and the three-point terror that is the Splash Brothers, they need to accept that the Clippers have been lighting up opponents even more.

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And before even looking at the endless highlight reels of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, the Clippers’ backcourt deserves serious credit for being instrumental to the offensive prowess that L.A. has displayed all year. Now, with the playoffs right around the corner, their core of guards are primed to make a serious impact.

Despite being without Jamal Crawford for nearly all of last month, the Clippers have been hotter than ever this year from three-point range. They are one of only 10 teams to make at least 800 three-pointers in a single season since the three-point shot was invented. Which, for the record, was all the way back in 1979.

So even though Crawford may be a streaky shooter, he’s still one of the NBA’s ultimate heat-check guys. When his pull-ups find a rhythm and his high arching threes start falling, he can be an instant danger in the playoffs. Now that he’s back in the mix, the Clippers’ backcourt just got even better.

And at just the right time.

February 19, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers guard Jamal Crawford (11) shoots a basket as San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich watches during the first half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

This year, the Clippers rank first in offensive rating (points per 100 possessions) with 109.8. When considering the fact that they only rank 10th in pace (with 96.9 possessions per game), thus having less opportunities to score than teams such as Golden State and Houston, they have displayed a highly impressive amount of efficiency. So before assuming that the Warriors are the best at everything (they very nearly are, so don’t feel too bad for ignoring everyone else) remember that the Clippers are still firing on all cylinders.

Of course, everything in L.A.’s backcourt stems from Chris Paul. Who, despite being one of many great point guards in what can only be described as a golden age for the position, is still the best floor general in the game. It’s why he leads the league in assists with 10.3 per game. And his ball handling, vision, and poise under pressure will be vital this postseason. He’s even joining in with the Clippers’ three-point party, as his 1.7 threes per game is the best mark of his career.

Meanwhile, J.J. Redick is having the best year of his career all around. He’s averaging career highs across the board in points (16.4 per game), field goal percentage (47.9) and three-point percentage (43.6). He deserves far more recognition for what he’s been doing this year, especially as Kyle Korver (yes, of course, he is a bit more accurate) gained All-Star recognition for being little more than an outstanding three-point shooter. And Redick may not be over the 50 percent mark from deep, but his scoring output is more than 4 points higher than Korver’s.

His ability to pull-up from three in transition can always catch defenders off-guard, and his deadly accuracy from mid-range (shooting 51 percent from at least 16 feet out) will be priceless when the Clippers need a quick bucket off a high-screen or hand-off during the playoffs.

Even when looking into the Clippers’ forwards, Matt Barnes has been stepping up from deep this season by producing 1.7 threes a game whilst shooting a career best 36.7 percent from beyond the arc. Throw Crawford back into the mix now that he’s returned from injury, and it’s no surprise that the Clippers are third in the NBA in both three-pointers made and three-point percentage.

Sorry for all the numbers, but the Clippers have been shooting very well this year.

Apr 1, 2015; Portland, OR, USA; Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul (3) reacts after making a three point basket against the Portland Trail Blazers during the fourth quarter at the Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports

It’s still uncertain who L.A. will face off against in the playoffs, as the Western Conference is too close to call with the second and sixth seeds being separated by just one win. That being said, if they meet the Houston Rockets we’ll be set for an all out offensive showdown. If they meet the Portland Trail Blazers, the situation will be very similar, although the Clippers can make the most of them being without one of their best perimeter defenders, Wesley Mathews. On the other hand, if L.A. find themselves going against their rival Memphis Grizzlies, they’ll have one of the league’s stingiest defenses (who allow just to 95 points per game) to try and out-shoot.

Ultimately, it’s the efficiency of the Clippers’ plethora of shooters that will make a difference in the playoffs, no matter who they matchup against. The NBA’s top five teams in true shooting percentage (the Hawks, Cavaliers, Warriors, Spurs and the Clippers) also happen to be the five teams with the most wins. And it’s one of the main reasons why the Clippers have experienced their late season surge.

They may not be able to advance past more complete teams, that are well balanced between offense and defense, such as the San Antonio Spurs or Golden State Warriors. However, this Clippers team has the potential to simply outscore opponents on their way to at least the second round. Even if their Championship hopes end there, they can still cause some trouble.

Hot shooting at an efficient rate is often the key to winning in today’s NBA. The game has been leaning towards three-point shooting and forgetting about interior post-play for years. Thankfully for the Clippers, they’re pretty damn good at the former. With Griffin as well, they even have a little of the latter.

Those two assets combined make for a deadly combination. Which is why whoever they face in the first round of the playoffs can know that sooner or later, they’re going to get torched.