The Clippers Championship Caliber and the Lakers Lame?
The Clippers last night convincingly beat the Miami Heat at STAPLES Center 107-100 to run their record up to 6-2. The Clippers have beat the Memphis Grizzlies, San Antonio Spurs and the Heat all in convincing fashion.
The question is, are the Clippers for real?
When the abridged season began last year, this was the same question that was posed to us. The Clippers were the high flying team using their explosive offense to carve their way into our hearts. They even surpassed the Lakers as the most exciting team in Los Angeles, a feat I never thought would occur.
Then in Orlando on February 6 Chauncey Billups' left Achilles tendon exploded all over central Florida, and that pretty much sealed their fate. They made a good effort down the stretch to get into the playoffs and somehow oust the Grizzlies in seven games.
But the potential that everyone saw at the beginning of the season remained unfulfilled — the Clippers curse as it were.
The story of the Clippers so far this season has been their bench scoring 40.9 points per game. Against Miami in the fourth quarter, the bench were on the floor facing LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh and pushed the lead up to 20 points. James finally took control of the game with about five minutes left to go, but it was too late. Eric Bledsoe and Jamal Crawford had shot the Heat off the court.
Sure DeAndre Jordan has worked on his game, and Blake Griffin worked on his outside jumper which he knocked down easily against the Heat. It was Chris Paul whose 13 points at the end of the third quarter pulled the Clippers away from the Heat and allowed the bench to do what they did.
But let's say one or more of the starters get injured. It's the Clippers so it's very possible. With this potent bench, they could probably withstand such an impact.
I hate to say it, but this team might actually be for real.
But not so fast. The Clippers have played only one game away from STAPLES Center, and bench scoring tends to drop off on the road. The Clippers will spend Thanksgiving week on the road starting with a rematch of the Spurs in San Antonio on Monday followed by a game against the reigning Western Conference Champion Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday.
It's easy to get carried away when it comes to the Clippers. But we've been down this road before, so it's a little easier to use some perspective.
As for the Lakers. Well...
The Lakers formally announced the hiring of Mike D'Antoni this afternoon complete with a press conference and crutches. If the latter isn't the perfect metaphor for the Lakers season, I don't know what is.
I don't know if D'Antoni will be the right answer for what ails the Lakers. After all two of the starting five for the Lakers were drafted when I was still in high school in the mythical ages that are known as the Nineties. That can't be good for the "seven seconds and shoot" offense that made D'Antoni famous.
One thing that is working for the Lakers is time. There really is no urgency with the end of the season coming in mid-April. That should give them plenty of time to get chummy with D'Antoni, for Steve Nash to come back from his leg injury, for Dwight Howard to be 100% after offseason back surgery, for the Lakers to figure out what the hell it is they want to do with Pau Gasol.
What we need to remember is that it's November. The New York Knicks and the Memphis Grizzlies are the best teams in the NBA according to the standings. I'll take the Grizz in six over the Knicks.