Clippers’ Statement From Defeating Spurs Continues To Grow


May 6, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul (middle) and head coach Doc Rivers (left) react with the bench after a play during the second half against the Houston Rockets in game two of the second round of the NBA Playoffs at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Regardless of losing game two against the Houston Rockets, the Los Angeles Clippers have continued to make a statement through the adversity they’ve faced this postseason.

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Behind the MVP caliber season of James Harden, the Rockets became the second seed in the Western Conference this season with a 56-26 record. Their star center, Dwight Howard, is back after missing 41 games, and except for injuries to Patrick Beverley and Donatas Motiejunas, the Rockets are at full strength. Of course losing two players who both account for over 25 minutes a game is a tough loss, but unlike the Clippers, they have depth that can overcome such injuries.

And with players such as Terrence Jones, Jason Terry, and Trevor Ariza who can step in to fill the void, the star power of Harden and Dwight has proven to be enough to keep Houston going.

This second round series aside, though, the Clippers have been making a statement ever since the 2014-15 playoffs began.

When they came out firing on all cylinders in game one of the first round against the San Antonio Spurs, it was easy to see that something about this team had changed. They weren’t just making a bunch of threes on their way to a regular season blowout — they were dominating the defending champions to the tune of a 107-92 victory. Their one-two superstar punch of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin toyed with the Spurs’ defense to drop 58 combined points alone.

We all knew the series had just begun, but no one is meant to dominate the Spurs with such ease in the opening night of the playoffs.

Just because, well, they’re the Spurs.

Those ‘old guys’ are always meant to win somehow.

May 2, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers bench players celebrate after guard Chris Paul (3) made a basket with one second remaining in the fourth quarter of game seven of the first round of the NBA Playoffs against the San Antonio Spurs at Staples Center. Clippers won 111-109. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Then, the series progressed and the Spurs bounced back like we all knew they would. They won two straight and took control of the Clippers in game three with a 100-73 victory. It was L.A.’s lowest scoring output of the season, and instantly awarded them with another sweeping opinion throughout the basketball world that they weren’t a serious contender.

That didn’t sit well with Paul and Griffin, though.

After they turned things around with a 114-105 win in game four, the two stars continued to play with even more aggression and reckless abandon than most even thought they were capable of.

Paul simply took over in game four. It was essentially a win-or-go-home scenario, and his 34 points on 11-of-19 shooting and 7 assists reminded everyone that despite how flashy Stephen Curry is, CP3 is still the NBA’s best point guard.

The Clippers proceeded to win the final two games of the series, and another triple double from Griffin (24 points, 13 rebounds, 10 assists) and a game winning shot by Paul in game seven closed the deal.

Just as everyone thought they were a write off once more, the Clippers silenced the Spurs by winning back-to-back games when it mattered most. Their season was on the line, and their star players rose the occasion when it mattered most. Griffin showed he can carry a team by himself, and Paul gave his critics something to think about when they try and make the argument that he crumbles in pivotal playoff moments.

So other than their two leaders proving that they are far more than Lob City, what else have the Clippers proved this postseason?

They’ve now made the Western Conference semi finals in three of the last four seasons, so you could say that this year is no different.

However, the defeat of the Spurs in round one — who have been the most consistent team over the last 16 years and one of the greatest dynasties in NBA history — showed how the Clippers have taken themselves to another level.

They finished this season with the best offense in the league, after ranking first in offensive efficiency with 109.8 points per 100 possessions. It’s a fact that’s been overlooked. Purely because of the immense hype that has surrounded Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors all year long. The Clippers also ranked in the top three for field goal percentage (47.3), three point field goal percentage (37.6), assists per game (24.8), points per game (106.7) and most importantly, win differential (+6.6).

Whilst he fought off a hamstring injury to lead the Clippers to victory in game seven against the Spurs, Paul proved his will to compete. And with the increased vocal leadership and triple double nature of Griffin, the Clippers now have two leaders that are both capable of leading their team to contention.

May 6, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin (32) shouts to a teammate during the third quarter against the Houston Rockets in game two of the second round of the NBA Playoffs at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

What is making this playoff run even more impressive for the Clippers is that they’ve been the underdogs throughout, and they’re still fighting strong.

No one expected them to take down the Spurs in round one, and they did so in spectacular fashion with Paul’s walk-off buzzer beater to take the final game 111-109.

Then, to begin the second round, they were without their superstar point guard and chose to let Griffin lead them to victory instead. He finished game one with 26 points, 14 rebounds and 13 assists. Which, for the record, makes him just the third player in NBA history to record those numbers in a playoff game (with the others being Magic Johnson and Rajon Rondo).

As Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report described so aptly, “Griffin’s game and other good things are growing quite organically out of the comfort zone created by this Clippers community”. It’s not just this new comfort zone, chemistry and collective toughness of L.A. that has led to their success, though. It’s the fact that they now have two leaders who have matured into players capable of stepping up in the playoffs.

May 4, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Los Angeles Clippers guard Jamal Crawford (11) talks with forward Blake Griffin (32), forward Matt Barnes (22) and guard J.J. Redick (4) during a Houston Rockets timeout in game one of the second round of the NBA Playoffs at Toyota Center. Los Angeles Clippers won 117 to 101. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Few teams in the league even have one such leader. That’s what separates the top tier playoff teams from the pretenders that reside at the bottom of their Conference. Yet the Clippers have made a statement this postseason that has proven they have two — in the form of a determined Chris Paul and the triple double machine that is Blake Griffin.

They may have lost game two against the Rockets — after Griffin cooled down from a 26 point first half to go just 2-of-9 for 8 points in the final two quarters — but to only lose by six points without CP3, against such a formidable opponent, still shows how far L.A. have come.

And there’s more than just the emergence of Paul’s first round heroics and Blake’s dominance that need to be noted.

The aggressive mindset and toughness they’ve played with has rendered their previous reputation of being a weak team who can’t surpass the second round, as completely irrelevant.

The Clippers haven’t improved on their recent playoff track record yet, though. And in order to fully change the opinion of their doubters, they will need to continue to go at the Rockets with full force and advance into the Western Conference Finals.

However, Griffin has taken his game to another level when it matters most and Paul has showcased his grit and grind attitude. And when players like Austin Rivers score 16 points on 87.5 percent shooting, in a pivotal game four against the Spurs, it’s clear the duo’s leadership is inspiring confidence throughout the team .

Now, as the Clippers continue to compete without their best player in CP3, their statement after defeating the Spurs continues to grow.

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Next: Clippers Fall To Rockets 115-109: Game 2 Player Grades