First place in the Pacific Division, five games ahead of the Phoenix Suns and the Golden State Warriors
Fourth place in the Western Conference, six percentage points behind the Houston Rockets
You know you have a very good team that has the potential to go far in the playoffs when you lose your point guard, who’s considered by pretty much everybody to be the best in the NBA at that position, and win 12 of the 18 games played without him.
That’s exactly what happened to these Los Angeles Clippers when Chris Paul went out with a separated shoulder.
Like good teams are supposed to do, they used a very capable backup, former UCLA standout Darren Collison – who did very well in Paul’s absence – and key guys like DeAndre Jordan and especially Blake Griffin stepped up.
In Griffin’s case, that stepping up manifested itself (again) during their latest game against Portland at Staples Center on Wednesday night. The power forward scored a game-high 36 points, led everyone with ten rebounds, and most importantly made ten of 12 free throws in a hard fought 122-117 win that saw many lead changes and went down to the wire.
It’s crystal clear to everyone that Griffin is having his best season as a pro, leading the team with his 24.2 points per game average while grabbing 9.8 boards per game.
He – along with CP3 who’s averaging an league-leading 11.1 assists per contests – will represent the Clippers very well in the upcoming All-Star Weekend in New Orleans, with the All-Star Game being Sunday, February 16. Griffin is slated to start while Paul will be a reserve.
The biggest crime in this year’s All-Star Game is the fact that the NBA’s leading rebounder won’t be taking part in it.
I don’t know what the people who decides these things were thinking when they left Jordan and his 14 rebounds per game off the West roster; Dwight Howard is doing well for the Rockets, but I’m sorry – I really don’t think that LaMarcus Aldridge deserved to be chosen ahead of Jordan.
More than anything else, these Clippers have flat-out taken the title of “The Good NBA Team In L.A.” as their cross-the-hall counterparts, the Lakers, are in complete disarray right now.
Heck, even the Clippers’ announcer, Ralph Lawler, is better than what the Lakers have by a long way.
I know that Laker fans will not change their allegiances as they are among the most loyal and die-hard followers in all of sports, but they should at least appreciate how far coach Doc Rivers’ team has come in the past few years.
Not to say that it will be smooth sailing for this Clipper ship these next few weeks as after the All-Star festivities in New Orleans, they will have some tough match ups against teams that, if the Clippers intend to take the next step and truly join the NBA’s elite, they need to beat:
They open the post all-star stretch against the San Antonio Spurs on February 18.
Followed by their nemesis, the Memphis Grizzlies, in Memphis on the 21st.
Then they have to travel to Oklahoma City to face the conference-leading Thunder on February 23.
And after a date with the New Orleans Pelicans the next day, they’ll have a showdown with the Rockets on February 26 that will go a long way to determine playoff seeding, as you want to finish with as high a seed as possible in order to have a better chance at a home court advantage.
By the way, in case anyone’s wondering, the next time these Clippers and the Lakers meet will be on Tuesday, March 6, with the Lakers being the designated home team.
So in looking at this schedule, it’s obvious that this team will have to earn any glory that they want this season.
And if the Clippers stay healthy, they way they are playing at the moment, I think they have as good a chance as anyone.
In the meantime, here are highlights of Wednesday’s win over the Trailblazers for all you Clipper fans to enjoy: