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Clippers-Cavaliers Preview: Midseason Rebuilds

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Two teams coming off dramatic in-season transformations face one another.

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Cleveland Cavaliers Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

The Big Picture:

Are you getting dizzy? A little sick? Watching the Western Conference standings spin can do that to you.

One day the Clippers are out of the playoff picture. Today, they’re in it, by two-thousandths of a percentage point. And by tomorrow? (*Shrugs)

Still missing Danilo Gallinari and Avery Bradley, the Clippers aren’t playing their best basketball. But neither are the Nuggets, nor the Thunder, nor the Timberwolves, nor the Spurs. The Trail Blazers have shot up to third! The picture changes quickly.

The only sure way to keep from falling is to win, and the Clippers have done it enough. They lost on Tuesday night to a transcendent Anthony Davis, but maybe that increases their fortunes — Doc Rivers and company haven’t dropped consecutive games since January.

The Antagonist:

Yeah, he’s going to be a free agent. Let’s steer clear of there for a minute, shall we?

LeBron James hasn’t had a vintage season in this, his 15th, but he’s not measured in March anymore. Plus, he thinks he’s playing better than ever. He’s not in the MVP conversation and he probably doesn’t care. He wants to get ready for April.

So does Cleveland’s front office, which is why they traded a vanpool’s worth of players to change the scenery around LeBron before he changes it himself.

(Shoot, it’s hard to talk about this team without talking about this summer.)

Another try: these two teams last played a week before Thanksgiving. The Cavs won in overtime — the Clippers only overtime game this season — but there’s not much to take from that result seeing as how many different players will take the floor tonight.

So, it’s not really about how these teams have grown since then but about how they’ve reshaped themselves on the fly. The Clippers and Cavs are searching for new identities midseason, with postseason runs and beyond at stake. Funny thing is, they may look even more different come July.

(Damn, I just can’t avoid it.)

The Basics:

The Subplots: