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A Tale of One City (Two Teams, One City)

It was the best of teams, it was the worst of teams.

Looking at a snapshot of the standings on 1/30/07, the Clippers record against teams with losing records is 16-6.  Their record against teams at or above break even is 6-16.  Makes sense.  They tend to lose to better teams, they tend to beat poorer teams.  They've played a fairly balanced schedule, and their record is .500 on the season.

Breaking this down a little further, if you look at Clipper opponents currently within 2 games of .500 on either side (Orlando, Denver, Minnesota, New Jersey, Toronto and Golden State), their record is 5-6.  So against the top teams they are 3-12, against the bottom teams they are 14-4.  You are what you eat, and in basketball, you are what your record says you are.  It's abundantly clear that the Clippers are a middle class team right now.  The Clippers can't beat good teams, play .500 against the middle of the pack, and usually beat bad teams.  Maybe this will be enough for the 8th seed in the playoffs and maybe it won't, but it certainly doesn't bode well for success there.  This is why it's wildly premature to imagine that the Clippers are playing better simply because they've won 7 of 10 and are back at .500.  They haven't beaten a team more than 2 games over .500 since Houston on December 23, and the Rockets were playing without Yao or McGrady.  They haven't beaten a good team at full strength since the opening week of the season.  That's almost three months now without a quality win.

But at least the Clippers record makes sense.  How can you explain the Lakers?  The Lakers are 16-8 against teams .500 or better, and 11-9 against teams below .500.  And all 9 losses came to teams well under .500.  Interestingly, I would have said that sort of inconsistency is characteristic of a team with loads of talent that is poorly coached, but the Lakers are opposite that assessment.  Beyond Kobe and Lamar, they seem to be a bunch of overachievers, and they are very well-coached (at least in their wins).  It's really hard to figure.  

Back to the Clippers.  This is more or less the same thing they did last season.  The difference being that they snuck in a few more quality wins, especially at home.  But they did a great job of getting wins against the bad teams, especially on the road, which accounts for their 20-21 road record last year.  Until this season's team can beat a couple good teams (and I'm not even talking about the Suns, Mavs, Sours and Jazz here, I'd settle for a win against one of the four decent Eastern teams), we're looking at a first round exit in a short series, best case scenario.

The Clippers will have a chance to get a win against a team with a winning record when Chicago comes to town on Wednesday.  Based on experience, I have a bad feeling I know what's going to happen.