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Clippers Ring 76ers' Bell, Win 119-98

The Clippers clinched a playoff spot and extended their win streak to 6 games with a hard fought victory over the 76ers.

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

For the fourth straight season, the Clippers are going to the playoffs. While this accomplishment was a foregone conclusion, with many people reserving judgments about the team until they see what they would accomplish in the postseason, it hasn't always been this way for the Clippers. Because of their long, tortured history of mediocrity (and worse), us fans can marvel at just how far this team has gone in such a short amount of time.

The path to clinching a playoff birth may have seemed easy after the Clippers last performance against the cellar dwelling Knicks. After running and dunking the Knicks out of the Garden, the Clippers were looking to lay the same sort of smack down against the tanking 76ers. To Philly's credit, they played hard the whole game and made sure the Clippers could never really relax. After a competitive first half, the Clippers closed the door on the 76ers with a strong third quarter and behind the dominant play of Point God Chris Paul, 25 points 7 assists, and DeAndre Jordan, 17 points 20 rebounds.

The Clippers started the game off fast behind some scorching J.J. Redick layups jumpshots and dunks by DeAndre Jordan. Chris Paul had an amazing sequence where he went on his own personal 9-0 run including a spectacular play fooling the whole 76ers team with his fake pass, spin dribble to waltz down the lane for a layup. At the end of the first the Clippers were up by 15 and the 76ers never got closer than 8 for the remainder of the game. However, while the Clippers lead was never truly in danger, the feel of the game was much more competitive than that as Philly played with continual effort, never giving up and succumbing to the tanking mentality. The catalyst for the 76ers the whole game was Nerlens Noel, who played phenomenally finishing with 30 points and 14 rebounds. While Andrew Wiggins likely has the Rookie of the Year award locked up, Nerlens is making some late season noise with his play and terrific defense, showing himself to be a potential star building block for Philly's future. Ish Smith also had a good game for the 76ers chipping in 18 points and 9 assists while remaining a blur on the court; I had often heard Ish referred to as the fastest player in the league with the ball, and now I understand why.

With Philly's great effort in the second scoring 35 points, they ended up cutting the lead to 8 by half and had some believing that they may make this into a real game. Chris Paul and the rest of the starters came out of the locker room in the third quarter determined to stop playing around and put this team away for good. Shooting 13-20 in the third quarter and dropping 32 points, the Clippers also ramped up their defense holding the 76ers to only 14 points. The lead ballooned to 26 by the end of the quarter, essentially icing the game. The Clipper bench played pretty well with solid contributions from everyone and Austin Rivers ultimately got his revenge on Blake Griffin by outscoring him. The most important part of their play was that they were able to mostly hold the leads built up by the starters, allowing them to take the entire 4th quarter off. The reserves have looked better as of late, though that may be in part due to their level of competition. Hopefully they can reintegrate Jamal Crawford and Nate Robinson soon and be ready to contribute when needed in the playoffs.

The Clippers are in the playoffs and riding a 6 game win streak building momentum. With the Grizzlies' loss and Houston's victory tonight, the two teams fall into a tie for 2nd place in the loss column, and both sit only 2 games above the Clippers. As crazy as it may have seemed a couple weeks ago when Blake Griffin went down, the Clippers have a real shot at the the 2 seed in the Western Conference, and hopefully avoiding the juggernaut which is the Warriors until the Conference Finals.

Ending Notes

I'm not quite sure what's up with Blake. He didn't seem particularly interested in the game at all, being practically invisible in the first half scoring only 2 points and attempting only 3 shots. He turned it on a little in the third quarter scoring 8 points and did total 8 assists for the game, but I would like to see Blake act a little more aggressive against inferior opponents. While some may say he needs to impose his will more (cough Barkley cough) he still impacts the game in multiple ways and one game in Philly is probably an overreaction caused by concern over his return from injury.

This game was a track meet with both teams constantly pushing the ball up and down the court at break neck speeds. Philly wants to play fast, and while they are a pretty good defensive team, that high tempo came back to bite them as the Clippers's offensive engined shifted into high gear and overpowered them.

REALLY BRETT BROWN (whom also looks like a Grandpa version of Steve Kerr)?? BANG A DJ IN THE FIRST HALF AND DOWN 25 IN THE 3RD??? Sorry for the all-caps yelling, but while I normally take a more neutral stance toward the intentionally fouling bad free throw shooters, the practice just made this game unwatchable at the end of the first half. Some may argue that it worked a little as the Clippers were obviously taken out of their rhythm and the 76ers cut into their lead, but it just ruins the product for fans. Plus, do you really need to foul DJ down 25 in the 3rd? The Philly fans are already subjected to watching a tanking team, don't make watching basketball any more gruesome for them. Besides, the Clippers have won every game that DJ has attempted over 14 free throws!