For 7 straight seasons, the best team in Los Angeles has been the Clippers, not the Lakers. Since reaching the Western Conference semifinals in 2012, the Lakers have wallowed near the bottom of the NBA, finishing below .500 in 5 straight campaigns. This year was supposed to be different.
When Magic Johnson helped sign Lebron James to a 4-year, $153 million contract, the odds the playoff drought would linger seemed to diminish. James hasn’t missed the playoffs since his second season with the Cavaliers in 2004-05.
As of right now, though, the narrative of the last decade remains the same. The Clippers are 36-29 and hold the No. 7 seed in the West. Meanwhile, their Staples Center neighbors are 30-33 and sit 4.5 games back from the Spurs in the No. 8 spot.
Entering tonight’s intra-city matchup (10:30 p.m. EST, NBA TV), Doc Rivers and company have a chance to continue burying the Lakers. Let’s take a look at the Clippers’ playoff chances, as well as the importance of tonight’s game.
Clippers Playoff Chances & Odds
The question at this point is not whether or not they make it. It’s how high of a seed can they get. According to Playoff Status, the Clippers possess a 93 percent chance of making the postseason. That splits up into a 31 percent chance at the 8-seed, a 31 percent chance at the 7-seed, a 17 percent chance at the 6-seed and just an 8 percent shot at the 5.
Tonight’s game impacts the playoff race the most per Playoff Status. A Clippers victory boosts their postseason chances to 97 percent, including a not-so-farfetched 19 percent at the 6-seed. Meanwhile, the Lakers are already a 98 percent chance to miss the postseason. A loss would be lethal to them.
How Have the Clippers Maintained Success
An outside viewer wouldn’t be blamed for thinking Rivers was content to rebuild for the future after trading away both Boban Marjanovic and Tobias Harris to the Sixers last month. Since then, Los Angeles is 6-4, including two road wins over Boston and conference contender Sacramento.
Harris scored over 20 points a game before leaving, so instead Rivers has dispersed his scoring among several contributors. In the 116-109 victory over the Kings on Friday, 7 Clippers reached double figures. The effort was led by Landry Shamet (20 points), Danilo Gallinari (19 points) and veteran guard Lou Williams (17 points).
Shamet, who came to Los Angeles after being drafted by Philadelphia last year in the first round, has posted a 12.4-point average since swapping jerseys. The former Wichita State Shocker also set a team rookie record with 7 triples in Sunday’s rout over the Knicks.
This has helped fuel the league’s 7th best offense in points per game (114.1).
With the 3-headed monster of center Ivica Zubac, JaMychal Green and Montrezl Harrell leading the league’s No. 11 rebounding unit, Los Angeles is maximizing possessions by crashing the glass on both ends. Zubac leads the way with 7.7 boards a night, while Green and Harrell chip in with 7 and 6.5, respectively.
Look for the Clippers to take advantage of a Lakers defense that ranks No. 24 in scoring defense (113.9 points a game).