Tag: Los Angeles Clippers

James Harden, Chris Paul

PBT Second Round Playoff Preview: Los Angeles Clippers vs. Houston Rockets



Clippers: 56-26 (third place in Western Conference)
Rockets: 56-26 (second place in Western Conference)
Season series tied 2-2 (Dwight Howard played in none of those games, Blake Griffin only two, so don’t read too much into it)


Clippers: Chris Paul strained his hamstring in Game 7 against San Antonio and, while the MRI was negative, it not clear if will be able to go in Game 1. However, even if he does, he is not 100 percent.

Rockets: Patrick Beverley had wrist surgery and is out for the postseason. Donatas Motiejunas is out for the playoffs (spinal surgery). K.J. McDaniels has a fractured elbow and will be out for this series.


Clippers: 109.8 points scored per 100 possessions (1st in NBA); 103 points allowed per 100 possessions (15th in NBA).
Rockets: 104.2 points scored per 100 possessions (12th in NBA); 100.5 points allowed per 100 possessions (6th in NBA).


1) How healthy is Chris Paul’s hamstring? The answer to this question can swing the series. CP3 is the best point guard in the game, a guy who can beat you scoring or passing, is a very good defender, but more than all that he is the smartest point guard going. Nobody can orchestrate the flow of the game like he can. Maybe the bigger issue for the Clippers, he’s backed up by Austin Rivers — a guy who should be on the bubble of even being in the league. If CP3 can’t go expect a lot more Rivers and Jamal Crawford (who can score but is a defensive liability). Which is to say, if he can’t go or is extremely limited the Clippers are not near the same team. Paul was nothing short of brilliant against the Spurs — 22.7 points and 7.9 assists a game, not to mention the series-clinching shot over Tim Duncan — and if there is a significant drop off against the Rockets then Houston becomes a clear favorite. The Clippers had the best offense in the land in the regular season, but it’s not the same if CP3 can’t go. Paul gutted it out against the Spurs and expect him to give it a go against Houston, and even 70 percent of Paul is far better than any alternative for Los Angeles.

2) Can the Clippers continue to defend well and keep James Harden in relative check? Despite Doc Rivers pitching DeAndre Jordan for Defensive Player of the Year, the Clippers were an average defensive team this season. Los Angeles was inconsistent on that end of the floor. However, against the Spurs Los Angeles’ aggressive, pressure defense was fantastic, with much crisper rotations, much better physicality, and Jordan owned the paint making it far more difficult for the Spurs to score inside. Houston’s offense looked much better in the first round thanks to the return of an active Dwight Howard — someone who will keep Jordan busy and limit his ability to help — but it is also far more conventional than what the Spurs run. The Clippers will welcome the respite. In the regular season series the Clippers held Harden to 38.5 percent shooting thanks to pesky defense mostly from J.J. Redick. He and Matt Barnes will both get time on the beard (and defending Harden is a team job anyway). The Clippers held Harden in check better than most teams. If Los Angeles can do that again, Houston will need another strong performance from Trevor Ariza, Terrence Jones and the rest of the supporting cast like they got against Dallas. But this is not the pathetic Dallas defense that the Rockets will have to do it against now.

3) Can Josh Smith have another big series? Dallas simply had no answer for Josh Smith, who averaged 17.4 points and 3.8 assists per game in that series, both second best on Houston. More than that, he was efficient shooting 51.5 percent overall and 39.1 percent from three. If he can provide depth it is something the Clippers will struggle to match — Los Angeles does not have a bench Doc Rivers can trust. (He should really talk to his GM about that.) The Clippers would have to use a lot of Blake Griffin on Smith and that could start to wear down Griffin, who struggled at times with energy in the fourth quarter against San Antonio (although games six and seven he played well). Smith can be the real X-factor in this series if he has another strong performance.


So much of this swings on Chris Paul’s hamstring — if he cannot play or is truly limited Houston is the favorite. No doubt Houston looked good last series, but that was against a Dallas team playing no defense and with an offense that leaned on Rajon Rondo for a few games. The Clippers just took out the Spurs and are simply playing at a much higher level than what Houston has seen. The Clippers may have a hangover from the Spurs series, but that is only going to last one game (at most) then the team with championship aspirations with turn its focus to the task at hand. And if CP3 is anywhere near healthy, that will be too much for even this good Rockets’ team. The Clippers win in six.

Chris Paul’s MRI negative, is game time decision for Game 1

Los Angeles Clippers v Oklahoma City Thunder
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Chris Paul had a career-defining game in Game 7 against the Spurs, playing through a strained hamstring — seemingly dragging that leg around at times — to put up 27 points including hitting the game winner to advance the Clippers past the Spurs.

Now the big question as they head into Game 1 of Round 2, Monday night in Houston, is how is his hamstring feels now that it has had a day to cool down and tighten up? Will he be able to go in Game 1 at all? The Clippers need him to play — the drop off from Paul to his backup Austin Rivers is like stepping off the rim of the Grand Canyon.

The good news for Clippers fans is there doesn’t appear to be anything more serious than a strain, reports Arash Markazi of ESPN.

Paul is getting around-the-clock treatment to get him right for Monday night.

Will CP3 suit up Monday? I think Kevin McHale summed it up best.

Ginobili, Duncan, Popovich dance around questions about Spurs’ future

Utah Jazz vs San Antonio Spurs

As you might expect, it was Gregg Popovich who had the best answer about the future of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and the Spurs.

“People ask me about Tim and Manu and myself for the last five years, what we’re going to do. It’s all psychobabble. I have no clue,” Popovich said. “We’ll probably come back. Paycheck is pretty good (laughter). You think I’m lying?”

The fact is that two key parts of the core of the Spurs could decide enough is enough. Popovich is under contract and is enjoying the idea of transitioning this team to the future, he’ll be back. So will Tony Parker, who is under contract and, even if he’s slipping a little, is still an elite point guard. The Spurs will re-sign Kawhi Leonard.

But Duncan and Ginobili are question marks.

“I’m not making any statements,” Duncan said after the Spurs were eliminated, refusing to play the speculation game.

Which isn’t a surprise. You know when Duncan does retire it will come in the form of a press release that is emailed out to the media. And that’s it. No fanfare if Duncan can help it.

Yet Duncan at age 39 is incredibly productive. He averaged 17.9 points and 11.1 rebounds a game, plus he made key defensive stops. He battled Blake Griffin almost to a standstill. He has plenty of game left; the question is only does he want to keep playing. And he may not know the answer to that question yet.

Ginobili, on the other hand, is seeing his game deteriorate. He also said minutes after a painful loss was not the time to make a decision, but he sounded more like a guy willing to think about stepping away. Via Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports.

“It could happen,” Ginobili said (or walking away). “I still don’t know. I don’t want to make a decision after being a disappointment in a game like this. So I’ll have a lot of time. I will sit with my family and try to evaluate what happened during the season, how I feel and if I am ready to go at it again. I guess the Spurs are going to have to make a decision, too, and see what they want to do also.”

The Spurs are doing some big game hunting this offseason, reportedly targeting LaMarcus Aldridge — who is interested in them as well. But that can only happen if some big cap holds come off the books due to retirement or the Spurs cutting ties.

So the future of the Spurs is very much up in the air. And some key guys don’t know if they are coming back for one more run at it.

But they might. The paycheck is pretty good.

Reports: Stephen Curry to be named MVP Monday

Stephen Curry

It’s not official, but it’s also not a surprise.

Golden State’s Stephen Curry will be named the NBA’s MVP on Monday, reports Monte Poole of CSNBayArea.com.

Warriors guard Stephen Curry will be named the NBA’s Most Valuable Player, according to multiple league sources in recent days.

Official announcement will come this week, sources said, likely on Monday between Games 1 and 2 of the Western Conference semifinals series between the Warriors and the Memphis Grizzlies.

Multiple others have confirmed that this announcement is coming. James Harden will be second in the voting, according to the report.

This had been the most wide-open MVP race in recent memory, with players such as LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, Anthony Davis and Chris Paul all having seasons that allowed supporters to make a good case for them. But as the season wound through it’s final weeks, it clearly became a Curry vs. Harden race for the top spot.

Curry was phenomenal from the very start of the season, leading the Warriors to a 67-win season. He averaged 23.8 points and 7.7 assists a game (both sixth in the NBA), shooting 44.3 percent from three, plus was fourth in the league with 2.04 steals a contest. He had a team-high 22 in the Warriors Game 1 playoff win over Memphis on Sunday.

Curry certainly got some media votes for being the best player on the best team, but his MVP case was much more nuanced than that old cliche. While what Harden did was amazing it was conventional — use the pick-and-roll to get into the lane, draw fouls and hit threes. What Curry did was anchor a far more modern offense. He put up more than his share of highlight plays, driving the lane or knocking down his three, but he meant more to that offense than just being a standard quarterback. Steve Kerr used the threat of Curry off the ball, his gravity to draw defenders — even off the ball you can’t give him an inch — to open up the shots that Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and others got.

It worked. Curry has transformed into one of the most dynamic and most entertaining players in the league, but he is efficient as well.

This is well deserved.

Doc Rivers on whether Chris Paul will play in Game 1 vs. Rockets: ‘If I had to guess, I would say no’

Utah Jazz v Los Angeles Clippers

Chris Paul was amazing in leading his team to a last-second Game 7 victory over the defending champion Spurs, and his performance was especially impressive when seeing him dealing with a hamstring injury at the very same time.

After completing a series that was an absolute war, the Clippers must regroup less than 48 hours later for Game 1 of their second-round matchup with the Rockets. And they may have to do so with Paul sitting this one out.

From Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports:

Based on how Rivers also sounded, it will be surprising if Paul is available for Game 1 of the Clippers’ second-round series against the Houston Rockets on Monday night.

The well-rested Rockets and the Clippers split their four-game season series. Paul averaged 16.8 points, 9.5 assists and 3.3 assists in 36.3 minutes per game in four contests against the Rockets this season. The Rockets are without injured starting point guard Pat Beverley. And if Paul is out, the Clippers will have to turn to reserve Austin Rivers and seldom-used reserve Lester Hudson.

“Chris may play or may not play the first game, but the game is Monday … my guess right now if I had to guess, I would say no,” Rivers said.

It would be a shame to see the Clippers fall behind against the Rockets early in the series simply due to not being at full strength. But this is why the postseason is such a grind, and why the team left standing at the end has truly earned the right to be called champions.