The Clippers have been locked in to the 4th-seed for quite some time, but their first-round opponent has been far from settled. Despite being bitten by an unprecedented injury-bug, the Grizzlies hung on for a while, but the red-hot Trail Blazers and Mavericks have closed the gap and we have a race on our hands, folks. Here's Isaac Lowenkron's breakdown of what the next two days have in store for determining the Clips' first round foe:
It seems safe to assume that the likelihood of the Grizzlies beating both the Clippers and Warriors (on the conclusion of their quest for 73 wins, no less) on a road back-to-back is quite small and so we're really left looking at two teams: the Blazers and the Mavs.
Put simply, the Blazers control their own fate. With a win at home against the lowly Nuggets, they slot in to the 5th-seed and Chris Paul & Co. will be tasked with controlling one of the most dynamic backcourts in the league in what I think could be a more competitive series than people seem to be expecting.
However, with a loss to Denver, the Blazers open the door for the Mavericks, who've won 7 of their last 10, to steal a game at home against the Spurs, who will likely be resting as many guys as Pop can get away with. Improbable? Yes. But impossible? Not at all.
The jury is still out on who presents the best first-round matchup, but if you ask me, I'm taking the Mavericks over the Blazers ten times out of ten. The Clippers have twice beaten the Mavericks soundly in the last five weeks, whereas they needed a buzzer beater courtesy of J.J. Redick to topple the Blazers less than three weeks ago. Yes, Blake is back in the fold, but he's still getting his legs back and it could easily take that entire series to fully shake the rust off.
Damian Lillard is scary good and though CP3 has had his number, he's one of those players who can catch fire and carry a team for a series - just ask the 2014 Rockets. All due respect to one of my all-time favorites, Dirk, but the Mavs just don't have that same firepower.