The No.4 seeded Los Angeles Clippers playoffs run starts tomorrow night at the Staples Center against No.5 Utah Jazz and it is do-or-die time for the team.
Having barely squeaked out home court advantage over the Jazz, the Clippers must push past their recent Clippers playoffs’ slumps and not allow the demons of old to take over.
The Clippers have never made it past the second round of the NBA Playoffs and for the Big Three, it’s now or never. Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan have been together for six years now, and I fear this is their last chance to get it right and get to the Western Conference Finals. If they don’t, I believe they’re going to be broken up and sold for parts.
Yes, one can argue that the Clippers playoff misfortunes can be attributed to circumstances out of their control: injuries and plain old bad luck.
Last year, the team was up a 2-0 against Portland in the first round when they lost it in six games after injuries to Paul and Griffin.
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If that wasn’t heartbreaking enough, in 2015 they were up 3-1 over Houston and squandered a 19-point lead in Game six in Houston. That win would have sent them to the Western Conference Finals. They went on to lose Game 7 by thirteen.
And in 2014, Chris Paul had a series of unfortunate events in Game 5 when he turned the ball over twice at the end of the game and fouled Russell Westbrook who made three free-throws to give the Thunder the 1 point win. The Clippers lost the next game and the conference semi-final series at home.
In fact, the Clippers have a shaky playoff home record having lost at least once at home in their last six playoff appearances, as reported by Beth Harris of the Associated Press.
The team must think they can reverse that record because they fought so hard down the stretch to secure home court over the Jazz. Paul and Co. finished the season strong on a 7-game winning streak by playing focused and inspired ball and building some much-needed confidence heading into the playoffs.
With the team healthy (except for backup Austin Rivers who missed the final six games because of a hamstring injury) I think their prospects look good.
Paul, as leader of the team, needs to shake off those demons and go out and lead. Because anything short of reaching the conference final spells disaster for them all. No pressure guys.
Game one of the NBA Playoffs first round is Saturday at 7:30pm on ESPN.