After 82 regular season games, the playoffs are finally about to start. 16 teams (8 from Eastern Conference and 8 from the Western Conference) are ready to duke it out to the finish line, and only one will be crowned as the champion. In the East, there's the Pacers and the Heat, the only two teams that are in discussion for making it out alive. The other 6 are just innocent bystanders. In the West, more than half of the teams are capable of making a run for the title. The Spurs, Thunder, and Clippers are the more dominant teams out of the 8, but the other 5 are no push-overs. As each series unfolds, who has what it takes to survive?
Now, before we go any further, I must warn you: you'll see a lot of people jumping on and off of bandwagons as the playoffs wind down. The team that's beginning to stink it up, their fans will move on from them to find a new, more interesting team that's actually winning. This isn't odd, all of your friends are doing it. It's not respected at all, but it happens. Loyalty goes out the window when a person's pick is concerned. They want to be a winner, and they want to root for the team that's winning now. The casual fan has no idea what it feels like to follow a team to the end, and then become heartbroken when things don't go as planned.
I watched all 82 games from the Clippers this season, and I witnessed a team that went from being one dimensional, to a team that evolved into a well versatile group that knows how to spread the ball around, not limiting themselves to just pick-and-rolls with Chris Paul.
The Clippers went through injury after injury and never flinched. I was very impressed by this. After being without Chris Paul for nearly two months, of course he was missed, but they won games just fine without him. J.J. Redick missed more than half the season due to back issues. The injury list goes on, but the point is, for a team that had as many injuries as the Clippers had, the fact that they ended the regular season as the number 3 seed says it all. Depth and chemistry really worked in their favor this year.
But what the Clippers did in the regular season with all of their accomplishments is now irrelevant. The regular season is over, and now, the playoffs are here. This is where everything they worked towards begins to matter. All of those games they played are now considered warm ups. The real games are here, the pressure is on, now the question is, will they let that pressure make them a champion, or will they crack under that pressure and go home?
Chris Paul, for the first time in his NBA career, has no excuses. This is the best team he's ever played with, and they actually have a chance to win it all this year. The Clippers are deep, with lights-out shooters, and a center in Deandre Jordan that has a chance to win Defensive Player of the Year. Paul also has help with a dominant sidekick in Blake Griffin, who now is more than just a dunker. Add all this up with the fact that the Clippers now have Doc Rivers, a head coach that puts them in the best position to win each game—and you have the recipe for success.
I believe in this team, but what I think, or what anyone else thinks doesn't matter anymore. The only thing that matters is what happens on the court. They have to go out and prove to the world that they are champions.