The next seven games will have a lot to say about whether the Clippers have a chance to pass the Warriors for a Pacific Division Title.
With five of the Los Angeles Clippers’ next six games are against playoff contenders, there could potentially be more nights like the one Wednesday night against the Portland Trailblazers (Clips lost 98-93).
The other team (the Minnesota Timberwolves) is on the uptick since Ricky Rubio returned from injury and Kevin Garnett returned from the purgatory that is the Brooklyn Nets.
If the Clippers hope to contend for a third-straight Pacific Division title, they’ll need a strong showing during that gauntlet; as they already sit seven and a half games behind the Golden State Warriors.
Unfortunately, they’ll have to continue to do so for at least the next couple games. Surprisingly, they’ve gone 7-3 since Blake went down, largely in thanks to Chris Paul (left) and DeAndre Jordan’s incredible play.
Over the last 10 games, Paul has averaged 21.2 points and 12.6 assists per game, shooting 52% from the field – all notable increases over his regular season stats. Jordan has been spectacular in his own right, averaging 15.8 points and 19.2 (!!) rebounds per game, though his shooting has taken a slight dip – down to 66% from 72% – as a result of a larger role in the offense.
Paul and Jordan kept the Clippers afloat when the season looked on the brink of devastation, and their job could be nearly done. Blake could return during these next six games and help legitimize this stretch run.
Game by game, given how the Clippers have played, I don’t think 4-3 is too much to ask for. If they hope to close the gap on Golden State, they’ll need something closer to 6-1, and that one loss can’t come against the aforementioned Warriors.
That 6-1 record seems like a lot to ask, but when you consider during that same stretch, the Warriors will play the both the promising but hobbled Milwaukee Bucks and and the completely hapless New York Knicks at home, even two losses would probably only widen the divisional gap.
The Clippers’ opponents are actually nursing injuries of their own during this stretch. Golden State’s Stephen Curry (right) sat recently with ankle soreness, Kevin Durant is still out for Oklahoma City and the list goes on.
My overriding point: In the NBA regular season, come March, it’s about outlasting injuries. The Clippers have managed to do that with Griffin being out. Now, if they can continue to get healthy and string together a few games, there is still an extremely outside chance they can make a run at a top-four seed heading into the playoffs.
If I would’ve told you that 10 games ago, you’d have thought I was crazy.