Midway through the third quarter of their game in Boston Sunday afternoon, the Los Angeles Clippers led the Celtics by 35 points, 92-57. It was the third time in their three game road trip that they had led by 30 or more points. It wasn't particularly pretty the rest of the way, as the Celtics went on separate runs of 14-4 and 18-2 to trim the lead down to 11 and force Doc Rivers to bring his starters back into the game, but the fact is that the Clippers have overwhelmed all three opponents on this trip. Did they lose a little focus after building a ridiculous lead? Sure. You would too.
When things were working for the Clippers in this one, they were really working. For instance when they made four straight three pointers in the first 2:22 of the second half, or when Blake Griffin scored on four straight possessions, three of them off of little quick shot half hooks newly added to his arsenal.
The sad thing is, the competition on this trip has been so mediocre that it's tough to get very excited. The Clippers have some very serious games looming on Tuesday and Wednesday, and if they play well in those, then it will be time to start thinking about deep playoff runs. If on the other hand they look like a different team against the Warriors and/or the Blazers, then all of these blowouts won't matter one bit.
Still it must be said that the Clipper starters could not be much better right now. Griffin, who was 7-14 for 21 points to go along with nine rebounds and four assists, is still rounding into shape after missing over a month with elbow surgery. But every other starter -- Chris Paul, J.J. Redick, Matt Barnes and DeAndre Jordan -- is having a career type year. In Paul's case that's a very, very high bar -- this is a guy who probably should have been the league MVP in 2009 -- but right now he's playing as well as he ever has. As for the other three, by almost any measure they are all having the best year's of their careers, averaging career highs in all of the most important statistical categories.
The bench is a different matter right now and the team could certainly use a healthy Jamal Crawford back in the lineup, but as good as the starters have been, the bench is bound to look mediocre by comparison.
The win in Boston makes it seven straight for the Clippers. Of course these were the games we thought they'd win, but it has put them in a much better position for postseason seeding. In fact, combined with Memphis' third consecutive loss tonight, the Clippers now actually control their own destiny for the three seed in the playoffs. With a meeting against the Grizzlies scheduled for STAPLES Center on April 11, a win there will move the Clippers ahead of the Grizzlies based on tie breakers. Of course there are seven other games for both teams too -- games that are much more challenging for Memphis than for L.A. it should be noted -- but the point is that the Clippers don't even need more help from the Grizz at this point, provided they can beat them in two weeks. And catching Houston (two games ahead in the loss column) for the second overall seed is not completely out of the question, though the Rockets win in Washington today certainly made the task a bit tougher.
Was this trip too easy? Did the offense overwhelm opponents too quickly and too readily, removing any need for intensity or focus or execution? I suppose you could make that argument, but all you can do is play the games the schedule makers give you. And with three huge games looming in the final eight (Tuesday against the Warriors, Wednesday in Portland and of course against the Grizzlies) the Clippers now have a chance to prove that they're playing great basketball not just against bad teams, but against everyone.