Clippers’ Fortunes Rest On Griffin’s Form
The Los Angeles Clippers’ 2016-17 season ended in underwhelming fashion with a first-round exit in the playoffs against the Utah Jazz.
Doc Rivers’ men performed well during the regular campaign, winning over 50 of their 82 contests to secure the fourth seed in the Western Conference.
However, the Clippers were undone by Utah’s stoic defense in a thrilling seven-match series, crashing out at the first hurdle for the second term on the bounce.
Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan continued their impressive careers, leading their side forward into the playoffs for the sixth season in a row.
Jordan enjoyed one of the best campaigns of his career. He produced a high level of offensive production to accompany his brilliant defensive displays, earning his first All-Star berth.
Griffin missed out on the All-Star game, but still had an excellent campaign as he recovered from an injury-hit 2015-16 term.
Completing the trifecta, Paul maintained his form in his sixth season with the Clippers, although it would be his last in Los Angeles as he was traded to the Houston Rockets in the off-season.
Rivers’ men now face the task of continuing to compete at the top of the Western Conference without the nine-time All-Star.
They have made additions, but the pressure will be on Griffin and Jordan to take ownership of the side, with the former having signed a huge contract extension to remain in Los Angeles.
The Clippers must learn lessons from their failure last season to kick on and challenge the Warriors’ dominance of the Western Conference in the coming terms.
The Clippers enjoyed the perfect start to the season, dismissing the Portland Trail Blazers with relative ease on the road in their opener. Paul and Griffin combined for 54 points to secure the comfortable win, with the latter also displaying his dominance around the net with 14 rebounds.
Austin Rivers took centre stage with a 19-point outing against the Utah Jazz to deliver a victory on home soil. Paul reclaimed the reins to overcome the Phoenix Suns, notching 24 points, to ensure that Los Angeles ended the first month of the term unbeaten.
The Oklahoma City Thunder inflicted the first defeat of the season on Rivers’ men in a low-scoring affair at the Staples Center. However, the response to the setback was emphatic, reeling off seven wins on the bounce, including an impressive victory over the San Antonio Spurs on the road.
Their run came to an end with a narrow defeat at the hands of the Memphis Grizzlies. The loss yielded another response from the Clippers with four-straight wins, but November would end on a low note, losing three matches on the spin, including an overtime defeat to the Brooklyn Nets.
Los Angeles’ resolve came to the fore at the start of the December, beginning the month with a triumph over the reigning NBA champions – the Cleveland Cavaliers. JJ Redick put in a strong offensive outing, while Jordan was on form at the other end of the court.
A defeat at the hands of the Warriors highlighted the difference in class in the Western Conference. Six wins in seven improved their formidable record, including another triumph over the Spurs. However, the year ended terribly for the Clippers, dropping their final six matches of 2016.
Surprise Defeat Overshadows Season
The Clippers were handed an opportunity to get back on track in their campaign, with six out of their opening seven matches of 2017 at home. Rivers’ men won all seven contests as Rivers, Redick and Marreese Speights played vital roles to ease the burden on Griffin and Paul.
Their run included triumphs over the Lakers and the Thunder to leave them on course for the post-season, although four defeats in five at the end of the month quelled their momentum.
Quality outfits got the better of the Clippers during February with all five of their losses coming at the hands of teams that claimed the third seed or higher.
Griffin ensured that his side did end February with a losing record, putting in a 43-point outing to defeat the Charlotte Hornets in overtime.
The next month would be a microcosm of the Clippers’ season, producing impressive wins over the Boston Celtics and the Cavaliers, only for their momentum to be checked by losses to the Dallas Mavericks and Sacramento Kings.
Although they finished the season on a high note by winning their final seven matches of the term, Los Angeles claimed the fourth seed, four wins behind the Rockets in third.
As a result, the Clippers were pitted against the Jazz in the first round. Utah put them on the back foot immediately by claiming a victory in the opening match of the series at the Staples Center.
Griffin and Paul led the fight back to hand their side the lead, only for Joe Johnson and Gordon Hayward to restore the Jazz’s advantage. Paul ensured that the series would go the distance with a 27-point outing in game six, only for Hayward to snatch the series on the Clippers’ turf.
Paul’s six-season tenure with Los Angeles ended with a trade with the Rockets. The Clippers received a first-round pick in the 2018 Draft along with seven players, including Patrick Beverley who was named the NBA All-Defensive First Team last season.
The departure of Paul along with Redick left a void in the club’s offensive production. As a result, Rivers’ men acquired Danilo Gallinari in a three-team trade from the Denver Nuggets. He averaged 18.6 points per game in the 2016-17 campaign and should fit straight into the line-up.
Los Angeles acquired Sindarius Thornwell and Jawun Evans in the 2017 Draft, gaining the picks from the Philadelphia 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks. Both players will not be expected to make an impact in their rookie seasons, although the Clippers will be looking for more from Brice Johnson in his sophomore campaign.
The fortunes of the club next season will rest on the shoulders of Jordan and Griffin next season. The latter signed a lucrative deal in the off-season and Rivers will be hopeful that he takes his game to the next level to atone for the departure of Paul.
The 28-year-old has the ability to enter the MVP conversation and at odds of 50/1 with SunBets could be worth a punt to win the award.
Los Angeles have the quality to make a deeper surge into the post-season than the last campaign. However, they will need stronger performances down the stretch to pull it off, especially to dislodge the Warriors at the top of the Western Conference.
As a result, backing them at 66/1 with SkyBet could be worth a small punt.
For US betters check out this list of bookmakers – https://www.sbo.net/country/us/ – in order to get the best odds for the 2017-18 season.
Los Angeles Clippers To Win The Western Conference
- Blake Griffin
- Chris Paul
- Los Angeles Clippers