Can the Clippers’ recent success carry over into the Playoffs?


Entering the final stretch of another grueling NBA regular season, head coach Doc Rivers and his Los Angeles Clippers clearly were not content with their position amid the Western conference playoff picture. Following a March 27th playoff-clinching victory against the Philadelphia 76ers, Rivers mentioned the importance of home court advantage in this year’s remarkably competitive playoffs.

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“You’ve just got to get in, and then the second [goal] is if you can get home court it’d be great,” Rivers said, and then acknowledged the talent in the West. “There’s going to be four unbelievable teams going home in the first round. That’s just what it is, and you’ve got to deal with that.”

The dissatisfaction of their playoff seed (and quest for home court) was illustrated by their recent and current surge, where they have collected 9 wins in 10 games, with the only loss coming narrowly from the Golden State Warriors.

For the majority of the season, Los Angeles hovered around the No. 5 and 6 seed in the West. Now, with the playoffs starting this Saturday, the Clippers find themselves as a lock for at least the 3rd seed, but can steal the 2nd from the San Antonio Spurs in the remaining two games of the season. (Editor’s Note: the Clippers defeated the Nuggets yesterday.)

Apr 13, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Denver Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried (35) fouls Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin (32) in the second half of the game at Staples Center. Clippers won 110-103. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

If the Clippers were in the East, this sudden jolt to the top of the standings would be rewarded with a weaker opponent in the first round of the postseason. However, in the West, that isn’t the case at all.

It appears that the Clippers will land the Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets, or Memphis Grizzlies in the opening round of the playoffs. Although these matchups aren’t exactly ideal, the Clippers have proven they can contend with (and beat) any of those teams.

While the Clippers must be satisfied with their recent play, they won’t be gratified with anything less of a championship this year. In other (harsh) words, the recent stellar play displayed by the Clippers will be meaningless if it doesn’t translate into the playoffs.

Luckily for Los Angeles, there is no reason to believe that the success they have enjoyed all season — particularly this month — won’t carry over into the playoffs, where they will join 15 (realistically about 12) other teams pursuing the Larry O’Brien trophy.

In order to reach their illustrious goals this postseason, the Clippers will need to continue executing what are arguably their strongest aspects of the game: fast break efficiency and three point shooting.

Jan 26, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers guard Jamal Crawford (11) celebrates with teammates during the fourth quarter against the Denver Nuggets at Staples Center. The Clippers won 102-98. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

This season, the Clippers currently rank ninth in the NBA in fast break efficiency with an impressive 1.801 rating. This advanced stat calculates each team’s effectiveness in transition opportunities. The skill sets of Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan, and Blake Griffin often make for successful fastbreaks, and the capitalization of opponent turnovers will play a crucial role in the playoffs. Recently, Paul and Griffin have looked very comfortable in fast break situations, highlighting basketball top plays with dazzling efforts like this one:

The ability to make three point shots can be useful —  as three-pointers can get a trailing team back into a game quickly and build a firm lead — and even turn a solemn crowd into a vivacious one, which is something the Clippers have lacked this season at the Staples Center.

Guards J.J. Redick and Chris Paul have flourished behind the arc this year, and are a major reason Los Angeles’ three point percentage trails only the Splash Bros in Golden State and the Kyle Korver clinic in Atlanta at 37.6 percent. Like usual, Jamal Crawford has also contributed significantly off the bench from three point territory (33.1 percent) along with Matt Barnes (36.7).

Many say this year is one of the best chances for the Clippers to win their first title in franchise history. It won’t be easy, but it may be true. The Clippers have excelled lately, peaking at just the right time, and have climbed up the Western conference standings nearly as quick as they did on Marc Stein’s weekly power rankings. The ability to remain efficient on fast breaks and three-point shots will be vital for the Clippers in the heavily anticipated NBA playoffs that Clipper fans hope turns historic.

Next: Clippers' Backcourt Are Primed for NBA Playoff Success