In reality, the Clippers blew a 3-1 series lead to the Rockets in the second round of last year’s playoffs. Houston lost in five games in the Western Conference finals to the Warriors, who won the NBA championship.
In an alternate reality – where the Clippers didn’t blow it against the Rockets – what would have happened in the Western Conference finals?
Glen Davis, who played for the Clippers last season, on CBS Sports Network (hat tip: James Herbert of CBSSports.com):
We would’ve beat Golden State. We would’ve beat Golden State. And I think the reason why is because Blake Griffin. Who’s going to guard Blake Griffin? You got these little 4s, range-shooting 4s. Blake’s 6-9. He’s a true power forward. And then also, he can play around the perimeter. It’s hard to stop that when you’re playing small ball.
I mean, maybe.
But probably not.
The Warriors, an all-time great team, were definitely better than the Clippers. The Clippers were good enough to beat any team in a playoff series with the right breaks, but so what? So are several teams every year. That’s why upsets happen. It doesn’t suddenly make an upset likely.
The Clippers didn’t present a particular matchup problem for Golden State, either. The Warriors won three of four regular-season games between the teams.
Griffin didn’t even present a particular individual matchup problem. Draymond Green is one of the NBA’s best defenders, and he could have guarded Griffin as well as anybody can. Yes, Griffin scored 40 points in a regular-season game against Golden State – but Green didn’t play. Griffin shot just 33% while Green was on the court last season (63% against the Warriors without Green playing). Yes, the 6-foot-7 Green is smaller than the 6-foot-10 Griffin. Yes, Green shoots 3-pointers. But Green is perfectly capable of defending big men. Griffin wouldn’t have intimidated him.
And the Clippers lost to Houston in part because they ran out of gas. The Clippers had a weak bench and had to rely too much on their starters. Even if they avoided a total collapse against the Rockets and won one of the series’ final three games, the Clippers would have faced the same fatigue issue in the next round. In fact, it likely would have been worse.
So why would Davis say this? Well, he’s a still a free agent and probably wants the Clippers to re-sign him. Flattering a would-be employer might help.
That, at least, is logical.