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The CW (Clipper Weekly): March Madness

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Current Record: 29-33, 3rd Pacific, 8th West

Last Week: Let’s see, the Clippers lost all three games they played by an average of 14 points. But with the madness going on in the NBA this season, the Clippers continue to hold on to the last playoff spot in the West, despite their best efforts to mail it in. They even inched closer to the sixth spot by losing one less game than the Lakers last week. Such is life in this bizarro world where only 12 of the league’s 30 teams are above .500 and the “contenders” seem to be trying harder to lose and stay in the lottery for the 1% chance that they’ll win the Greg Oden/Kevin Durant sweepstakes, rather than trying to get into the playoffs. Teams six through twelve in the Western Conference standings (Lakers, Denver, Clippers, Sacramento, Golden St., New Orleans, Minnesota) went a combined 7-17 last week, with five of the wins coming against each other (in other words, someone had to win).

The newly-signed Jason Hart is getting nearly all of the point guard minutes with Sam Cassell barely able to play because of his injuries, and Daniel Ewing back to his more appropriate role on the pine. While Hart is doing an adequate job, the Clippers’ already pedestrian offense plays at an even slower pace because he’s not as proficient at getting out in transition. The Clips failed to take advantage of the absences of injured Spurs star Tony Parker and suspended Pistons hothead Rasheed Wallace. Whereas those elite teams found ways to compensate for key absences, LA is showing no such ability.

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Quick Take: The team looks like it’s checked out at this point, despite being in the playoff race. Their body language exudes no confidence, their play offers no intensity. It’s not even like past Clippers teams where individual players would try to shine on their own in order to attract a lucrative free-agent contract somewhere else. Mike Dunleavy’s outburst and subsequent ejection during yesterday’s game didn’t really seem to make any impact at all, as the Pistons immediately increased their lead without much fight from the Clips.

The Clippers embark on a difficult six-game road trip (and we know how the road has treated the Clippers this season), which is shaping up as the pivotal moment of the season. It is very easy to see the Clippers going 1-5 or 0-6, which could bury them in the standings if a couple of their rivals start playing better. However, an upset win could provide the spark to snap the team out of its post-Livingston funk and help them gain some momentum for the final three-week push.