The playoffs are finally here! The Clippers will open the first round of the postseason tonight, four months later than we originally expected, but better late than never.
LA will face Dallas in a playoff series for the first time in franchise history. We’ve already seen the Mavericks perspective and given our series preview, but here are some additional predictions from the Clips Nation staff:
What is one specific thing you’re watching for?
Alicia: It’s obvious, but I’m wondering if the Clippers will find a consistent rotation during this series. I think the entire season of inconsistency will probably do them some good if something happens to go wrong — they’re used to adjusting on the fly, and quite a few guys got minutes in the bubble so far — but contenders do tend to have a very set rotation of players. They can probably still win the series even if they’re unsettled in this respect, but the going will get tougher as the games progress, and finding a rhythm now would be ideal.
Blake: I’ve been saying this all season, but I honestly feel as if the Clippers have kind of been in cruise control all season. Sure, there have been a few games where they’ve given it 110 percent, but I don’t think we’ve seen them at their best yet. Assuming we get to see Harrell, Shamet and Beverley, we’ll enter the playoffs fully healthy. I think we might see a Clippers team we didn’t really see all year. Another thing I’ll be watching for is who can step up when needed most. We know what Kawhi and PG are going to do, along with Williams and Harrell off the bench. But who will be the fifth guy? Who will step in and give the Clippers 10 needed points, or give them a five-minute run that’s desperately needed?
Sabreena: The Clippers’ 3-point rate. The Clippers shot 33.2 3-pointers game before the hiatus, and that average has gone up to 35.9 during the seeding games, and they’re shooting 40.8% from distance during that time. This offense was already the second-best in the league from an efficiency perspective during the regular season, but becoming more proficient from 3-point range makes the Clippers even deadlier. Much of the team’s long-range bombing comes from the second unit, where JaMychal Green has been moonlighting as a small-ball five and Patrick Patterson has been filling, so I wonder if the Clippers will continuing shooting at this rate when Montrezl Harrell returns as the backup center.
Who will be the Clippers MVP for this series?
Alicia: I think more than a few games in this series will be close in the final minutes, and who’s the player who everyone will look to and step up? Kawhi Leonard. If the Clippers roll in the series, he’ll probably take a backseat, but again, I think two to three games in this series will go down to the wire so I’m going with Kawhi.
Blake: I wanted to try and be a little different and makes things interesting, but if the Clippers win this series it will be tough to see it being someone other than George or Leonard. I’m going to give the edge to PG. For whatever reason, George has a bad reputation in the playoffs, and I don’t know why. Over his last five playoff runs, he’s averaged 25 points, 7.6 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.9 steals per game while shooting just under 40 percent from deep. I get that he hasn’t made it out of the first round in some time, but there’s no denying the fact that he shows up. I think he’s hungry and eager to prove he can lead a team to the championship. I’m expecting a huge postseason from George.
Sabreena: Kawhi seems like the correct answer, but I’m going to be a contrarian here and suggest Paul George. The Mavericks don’t have a good answer to guard either Leonard or George, but they’ll put their best personnel (whether that’s Maxi Kleber or Dorian Finney-Smith) on Leonard, leaving George free rein against whichever smaller guard is tasked with defending him. He can easily muscle past and shoot over Tim Hardaway Jr. and Seth Curry, giving George the perfect opportunity to excel in this series. It’s also plausible that George will have some highlights in one-on-one defense against Luka Doncic while the Clippers keep Leonard on help defense.
Who will win, and in how many games?
Alicia: Clippers in 5
Blake: Clippers in 5
Sabreena: Clippers in 4