As Clippers fans, we have been through a fair share of moments that have given us heart palpitations, rising blood pressure, and all sorts of other panic-inducing side effects. Since their move to LA in 1984, the Clippers have been a thorn in the side of everyone who calls them “their franchise”, refusing to ever make things easy for their fans. While the Lob City Era was fun and the Clips won games (not when it mattered), and these past two seasons have been different and tough and smart and they’ve also won games, this was the year it was supposed to be different. The Clippers added two top 10 players in the NBA, on top of a roster that won 50 games last season.
According to hopeful (delusional) Clipper fans, they were supposed to win every game by 20, run through the Western Conference, and sweep every team in the playoffs en route to the franchise’s first ring. After the first two games, a tough win against the Lakers and a complete blowout against the still-Steph Curry possessing Warriors, it looked like 74-8 might be possible. If, of course, you like your morning cereal with a dash of unrealistic expectations.
Since that time, we have seen the Clippers go 8-5. They’ve lost games they should have won, rested Kawhi 5 games, and have looked like a fairly vulnerable team. It’s a team that is still trying to find chemistry with one another, a coaching staff still trying to find the right rotations, and a team that has, surprisingly, been pretty injured with three starters missing games due to rest or injury (with the glaring one being the absence of Landry Shamet).
The cool part about all of this? We are only 15 games into the season! We just witnessed what is possible when Kawhi and Paul George share the floor together. Teams that go through change in the summer take time. Probably more time than the Clippers afford to have, given the media’s outrage at them right now and the glare of Tinseltown. However, the Clippers just went out and beat the team with the second-best record in the NBA, despite being down 10 in the fourth and turning the ball over 23 times. The game was a frustrating watch throughout and looked as though it was all Celtics late. Tha didn’t matter to the three-headed closing monster that is Lou Williams, PG and Kawhi. Along with a beastly effort from Patrick Beverley, the Clips willed their way back into the game and used timely shot-making (that really wasn’t there all game and hasn’t been all season) to secure the win. As Doc said, “It was an ugly win, but it was beautiful.”
In the NBA, wins come in all shapes and sizes. For the Clippers so far in the Fall of 2019, we have seen mostly bruised, battered, and misshapen types of dubs. Outside of the Warriors game and the 49-point victory over the Hawks, LA has absolutely loved giving fans the white-knuckle experience. Even in their losses, outside of one Kawhi load management game in Utah, the Clips have kept it tight. With the talent that this roster possesses, even if one of the superstars sits, you would think that they could cruise to some V’s, right? So far this hasn’t been the case.
The Clippers have found ways to win games in a multitude of ways only 15 games in and have had to claw and fight their way back in many. These are the types of games that build trust and chemistry for a team quicker than blowouts would. These games are where you see who is built for the big moment and who runs away. These are the games that champions are made of. You don’t want easy and boring. You want to be tested and mentally prepared for everything that comes your way.
This all goes to say, while social media teams are clamoring to the glitz and glamour of LA’s other team — and they are having a ton of success in their own right — he Clippers are over here still adjusting, still building, and still working. This whole season will be a work in progress, especially with the rest and load management schedules that Kawhi and PG will be on all year. These early battles are a good thing, and will only benefit a team that is still in the early stages of evolving into a championship-worthy squad. We will be witnessing a litany of these tight, contest games the whole season. There may be more than we anticipated or maybe wanted, but an ugly win is still a win, and hopefully it translates to the playoffs and beyond.