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Just how far can Chris Paul, Clippers go in these playoffs?

Apr 26, 2012, 2:32 AM EDT

Los Angeles Clippers Chris Paul cheers on his team against the New York Knicks in NBA game in New York Reuters

I see the Clippers a lot like I saw the Oklahoma City Thunder a couple years ago — very talented, a world of potential, dangerous, but still learning how to win the way they need to win to start talking titles.

Those Thunder lost in the first round to the Lakers (the next year they were in the conference finals). These Clippers maybe can get past the Grizzlies and out of the first round — although that will be far from easy — but beyond that it may be too much. Right now.

For the Clippers, these playoffs will be a learning experience. Learning how to defend at this level — as they have done the last month of the season. Learning how to trust their counters in the offense. Learning how to adjust. It’s about gaining experience because while Chris Paul has made it to the second round of the playoffs before, nobody else on this team — including coach Vinny Del Negro — has.


Now it will be a different game for the Clippers. During the regular season, the Clippers raw physical gifts could overwhelm teams — Blake Griffin can overpower defenders in the post, the raw athleticism of DeAndre Jordan leads to highlight packages. The Clippers got out and ran and put on a show.

But that’s not how games are won in the playoffs. These are good teams who have the ability to take away the easy buckets, they do not get overwhelmed with your big dunks.

Playoff wins come with controlled execution on both ends. They come with smart adjustments and execution. Can Vinny Del Negro make those adjustments? Can the Clippers consistently execute them?

The defensive end is the real key for the Clippers — they have been inconsistent there this season. The last month they have been better but it will be their ability to defend, rotate and adjust that will determine if they can get out of the first round against Memphis.

Let’s not think about what the Spurs offensive execution would do to the Clippers defense. Not yet. Let the team cross that bridge when they come to it.

The Clippers have talent. Raw talent. But not experience, from individual players or as a team.

The Clippers against the Grizzlies will be the best first round series in either conference. It will be physical, intense and filled with athletes. I suspect the Clippers will not get past it, but if they do the execution of the Spurs will make them pay in the second round.

Which is another learning experience. If you’re going to learn control and execution under pressure, San Antonio is the team to watch.

The Clippers are still learning. The exams are about to get a lot tougher. But like the Thunder a couple years ago, the path to title contender seems to be there.

  1. adeedothatswho - Apr 26, 2012 at 2:46 AM

    The Clippers coaches play better defense than the team. They get great closeouts on the sideline.

  2. 4thquartermagic - Apr 26, 2012 at 3:19 AM

    The Clippers are especially dangerous when you consider that Chris Paul is a world-class flopper. Even soccer players are asking him for some tips.

  3. davidly - Apr 26, 2012 at 6:51 AM

    I’m gonna go out on a limb and answer the question in the headline with “About as far as the Spurs got (with the Grizzlies) last year.” Home court or no.

  4. loungefly74 - Apr 26, 2012 at 8:42 AM

    agree davidly. the griz are a very dangerous team. heck, they may be going to the conference finals this year…
    …oh and i’m not sure if the griz are one of those teams that has beef against Blake…but if they do, i fully expect Blake to get pushed around quite a bit and tear down that hubris he displays when he goes hard to the rim. this is a marathon, not a sprint and players remember and reponds to any shenanigans…

    • loungefly74 - Apr 26, 2012 at 8:43 AM

      “respond” is what i meant to say…

  5. mat9844 - Apr 26, 2012 at 9:37 AM

    Regardless of the eventual outcome, the Clippers had a great season. Blake has played some of the best in his career in the last few games and all his points weren’t in the paint, either. I hope the US Olympic committee is paying attention; he deserves a place on the basketball team.

    • loungefly74 - Apr 26, 2012 at 9:45 AM

      absolutely correct. they came close to winning the division. a big step in the right direction.

      …now i’m looking down the road here at possible scenarios…i assume the clip fan base will grow and rightfully so…so why in the world would the King’s owners (Maloofs) even consider coming to SoCal? The Clips will absorb a lot of people who are not Laker fans. i guess my point is…with the ClipShow winning and making the playoffs, it hurts the Maloof’s chances of moving there…

  6. blakspartan - Apr 26, 2012 at 9:38 AM

    Not far at all, first round hopefuls at best

  7. BigBeachBall - Apr 26, 2012 at 11:09 AM

    shocked if they go down to memphis… shocked…cp3 could carry the bobcats to the playoffs on his back if he wanted to… clippers in 7

  8. stayhigh_247 - Apr 26, 2012 at 1:02 PM

    no. his Hornets team was better than Le Bobcats and he didn’t take them very far, did he? Clips go as far as Vinny can coach them, Vinny’s a nice guy, but not far…

  9. jimsjam33 - Apr 26, 2012 at 6:22 PM

    Home court or not Clippers too much for the Grizz. CP3 and BG will put on a show for the ages . Clippers in 6 !

  10. fanz928 - Apr 27, 2012 at 8:18 AM

    Clippers could beat thunder

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