Things have been quiet in zhivworld, and I apologize for that. What a regular season! But we knew all along that it would play itself out, one way or another, and in the end there would be the playoffs, the Second Season, and the Clippers would be there and they would have certain strengths and weaknesses, but a big part of the equation was just to get there with relative good health (and fingers crossed): at that point, bring it on. So here we are.
Wednesday night's action was fascinating, and there are all sorts of nuances and ups and downs in the different contingencies. When has it been like this--aside from the Clips losing the final game and not making it into the playoffs (2005?). People don't really understand or appreciate the long road that the citizenry has been on for the last 10-15 years, and where we're coming from at this moment. Yes, the Spurs have been playing great basketball. But look at the Pellies and all of the commentary about the Brow and what they had to do to get the 8 seed and the matchup with GSW. I'm more than ready to watch and root for Gordon-Holiday against Curry-Thompson, and who else remembers when we were excited about how Eric Gordon's defense set him apart from OJ and who was it, Wussel Restbwook? It was a long time ago now. GSW-NOP should be a really fun series (NOP got a really nice, crucial win against GSW to keep their playoff hopes alive), and suddenly GSW seems like the just-slightly-vulnerable heavyweight favorite with a lot to lose, while NOP goes into the old Baron Davis-SJax-Matt Barnes-We Believe mode of plucky underdog.
Not that long ago the Clips were that new and exciting and talented team getting their first taste, and that was the highlight of our long sojourn, our first glimpse of stable and sustained success. Now the Clips are playoff fixtures, and a big part of general perception of the team stems from the way in which they didn't measure up to expectations in November and December, coming out of the gate somewhat slowly and in mild disarray. What a long strange trip (hat tip Big Redhead)! Jordan Farmar was a bust and Mullens-level bad episode, creating a second-team scramble that was as unlikely as it gets, coach Doc fulfilling the Dunleavy dream of bringing in his (freaking) son as the kid who puts his finger in the dike (antiquated reference much? is that HCA, Little Mermaid HCA, not game 7 at Staples HCA?) But it all worked, sort of, and the Clips got their annual Big Leap when Griffin, of all people, went out with a Nasty Elbow, creating a vacuum that was filled admirably by DJ, Redick, and the ever-deferential assassin, CP3. DJ's game went to the next level, and CP made the subtle transition to MVP-level, while Redick also started to hit his stride in a timely manner. Yes of course it was strange to watch Austin Rivers get minutes and then more minutes when Crawford's calf congealed, but it was all part of a sequence that we watched and studied, like every other year before, an evolution. The Clips looked to be preseason darlings and favorites, and then they were surprisingly semi-mediocre and still relatively successful, but there were all sorts of bright and shiny teams out there getting lots of attention, and the Clips fell into their weirdly familiar disappointment zone, which goes along with their new heel/entitled whiners status. But they kept working and tinkering and getting better, and the Griffin injury gave then an unexpected opportunity to turbocharge their improvement, an episode that was oddly similar to what happened when Chris Paul was injured the year before and Blake Griffin's game took a giant step forward.
So remember, here's what we're about to see: 2015 playoff Blake Griffin. 2015 playoff DJ (with free throw shooting to match.) 2015 playoff Chris Paul. 2015 playoff JJ Redick. Backed up by Barnes and Crawford and the rest, that is a scary bunch, with significant upside.
Stalwart citizens will remember the days when the lowly Clippers, 2015 Lakers-like, had no chance and hadn't beaten San Antonio in any game ever, in over a decade. But as our national fortunes turned the Clips started to pick up occasional wins, breaking out of the doldrums of defeat. After knocking off Memphis there was an SAS playoff shellacking, back in the VDN days, but that means nothing now. The Clippers have beaten the Spurs plenty of times, both home and away, in the past few years, and the matchup has featured all of the highs and lows of two strong, competitive teams going head to head.
The difference is that the Spurs are adapting, cultivating young and long talent (Leonard, Green, Splitter) to support and sustain the aging, crafty, championship core. This series is all about maturity. The Clips' Big Four and Next Two, the core of their team, has been waiting for their time to go into the playoffs with good health and momentum and focus, along with their own hard-earned and frustrating playoff experience, and knock off a worthy, savvy, skilled opponent. Look at the matchups. Tim Duncan will be phenomenal, but it will be in late-career Kareem-like fashion against athletes like Griffin and DJ, who have been studying how to neutralize Duncan for 5+ years now. Front line is a wash, probably advantage to the young and hungry Clippers. Tony Parker is an ultra-sophisticated Euro-equation and needs to be respected by any opponent, but Chris Paul and his hunger and need for success and vindication makes you wonder what Parker might be up against. As with Duncan, the challenge is probably on Parker, who won't dominate, rather than the other way around. And that's accentuated by the Clippers extra day of rest and staying at home all week, starting last night and going until after game two, next Wednesday, a (long) week from now.
The Spurs are not just well-oiled and machine-like. They're better than that. But the Clippers have been matching up with the Spurs for a long time, and measuring themselves against them, and they have been very competitive. It's not a toss-up; it's a war. What San Antonio is trying to do, to repeat and beat the Clippers and advance, is incredibly hard, especially when they have to go on the road. The Clippers have a huge rock that they have to move, just being the Clippers, getting past the giant obstacle, the immovable object that is the Spurs. It's going to be fun, and epic, and the Clippers are ready. It's what they want, and what they need. These two games at home, getting the series started, are going to be huge, bigger than any Clipper games I can remember, bigger than anything thing ever before in our national archives. Let's get fired up. The time is now. The Clips can do this. No negativity, no issues with the squad's flaws and questionable elements: the Clips have enough to win, they're one of the very best teams in the NBA. They have earned this moment. Everybody steps up, starting with the citizenry. Club O Let's Go!!!
No fear no guts no glory--let's get this and break it down and study every angle, but as we do we need to keep in mind that the squad has been preparing for this for weeks and months and years, that the Clippers are right where they should be. Ripeness is all. Go Clips.