Tag Archives: Los Angeles Clippers

NBA Quarterfinals: Worst to First

ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED???

The NBA Playoffs will get underway on Saturday, and hot off the press after last night’s action, we have a full slate of first round match-ups to sink our teeth into. While this particular writer is shedding a tear because the Philadelphia 76ers didn’t even come close to making it (again), this season’s playoffs promise to be one of the more entertaining ones in recent memory. The Boston Celtics were able to snag the 1 seed in the Eastern Conference for the first time since their 2008 title run; a huge milestone in the Brad Stevens era and one that will likely raise the expectations of Boston fans as the playoffs get underway.

There are four teams in this year’s playoffs that didn’t make it in 2016: The Wizards, Bucks, Bulls and Jazz. The Wizards, Bucks and Bulls all made it back in 2015, but the Jazz haven’t made it since 2012 when they were swept by the Spurs in the first round. With all of the changes that happened last off-season, we’re in for one insane playoff stretch, and it all starts with the first round on Saturday. We took a look at all of the matchups and ranked them by interest level, so when you sit down in front of your T.V. on Saturday, you’ll know what to turn on. Without further ado, here is the 2017 NBA Playoffs first round match-ups, ranked from worst to first.

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  1. Toronto Raptors (3) vs. Milwaukee Bucks (6)

Meh.

The Toronto Raptors did pretty much what you’d expect them to during the 2017 season. They kept up with the Celtics and Cavaliers and contended for the top spot in the Eastern Conference, eventually finishing third and drawing a matchup with the Bucks. The Raptors do have some new faces this season that they can use to their advantage in this series; primarily Serge Ibaka.

The key for Toronto is going to be their ability to shut down the Greek Freak, Giannis Antetokounmpo. The bigger guys on the Raptors’ roster are going to have a handful trying to defend Giannis, but if they’re able to slow him down and Kyle Lowry has a good series, there’s no reason why the Raptors can’t win this in 6 games. It could be one of the more competitive series in the first round, but aside from Antetokounmpo, there’s just not enough star power to make this an interesting series.

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  1. San Antonio Spurs (2) vs. Memphis Grizzlies (7)

This feels like a movie we’ve seen before. These two teams have squared off in a playoff series four out of the last seven seasons, and the tread on the old tire of interest is wearing a little thin.

The highlight in this match-up is the battle of the brothers. While Marc and Pau Gasol may have both passed their prime by a few years, it adds a little bit of intrigue to a series that will otherwise be overshadowed by a great Western Conference series that we’ll get into later. The Grizzlies upset the Spurs as the 8 seed back in 2011, however, and it would take a shocker like that to get us to turn our heads away from some of the other great action going on around the NBA.

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  1. Washington Wizards (4) vs. Atlanta Hawks (5)

Well, here we are again. Another year, another Hawks team that hovers in the middle of the playoff race and will be gone by the Conference Finals. Of course, the big difference this year is that they have Dwight Howard. I don’t see many people out there pushing the idea that Dwight Howard (of all people) is somehow going to push Atlanta over the hump, and this is a Wizards team that could be poised to knock them out early. After missing the playoffs last season, Washington is the four seed this year, earning home court advantage and a chance to knock off a very beatable Hawks team.

The Wizards went 3-1 against the Hawks during the regular season, the most recent of those being a thrilling 104-100 victory back on March 22. If Dwight Howard can somehow wake up from the five year nap he’s been taking and make a meaningful impact for this team in the playoffs, we might have something to talk about here for the Hawks. If not, it will be business as usual, and they can start making their tee times by the end of the month.

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  1. Boston Celtics (1) vs. Chicago Bulls (8)

The Chicago Bulls’ motley crew of Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo did enough to squeak in to the playoffs at the last second as the 8 seed. At different points in their career, all of these guys were dynamic players who could shift a playoff series just by stepping on the court. Butler is still that player, Rondo can impress occasionally, and Wade, when he’s not battling injuries, is a serviceable veteran player who can hit big shots when it matters.

The end result of all of these things is a team that is often inconsistent and frustrating, but if everything were to click at once, they could make this a series. That is going to mean slowing down Isaiah Thomas, however, and that is no easy task to say the least. Thomas is averaging 28.3 PPG in his last ten games, and the Celtics have a renewed sense of confidence after claiming the 1 seed in the east. Although it is a 1 vs. 8 matchup, these two teams split the regular season 2-2, so we could be in for at least a six game series if all goes well for the Bulls.

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  1. Cleveland Cavaliers (2) vs. Indiana Pacers (7)

If the Cavaliers had drawn a first-round match-up with the Bulls, this might be a little bit higher on the list. Of course, we’re always up for watching a great duel between LeBron James and Paul George, but this doesn’t appear to be more than a small roadblock for the Cavaliers. An interesting side note here, however, is that Lance Stephenson is back with the Pacers, and the last time he was in the playoffs, he was whispering sweet-nothings into LeBron’s ear. With that in mind, we ask Lance Stephenson please, give us more great theater like this. I want to turn on SportsCenter and see more of Stephenson trying to get under LeBron’s skin. Yes.

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  1. Golden State Warriors (1) vs. Portland Trailblazers (8)

For the casual NBA fan, the name Jusuf Nurkic might not ring a bell. Nurkic was drafted 16th overall by the Bulls in 2014, then traded to the Nuggets on draft night. Now, standing at 7ft 0in, he is the second tallest player on Portland’s roster, and he could play just enough of a role to make this more than a four game sweep for the Warriors. If Damian Lillard can also put the team on his back, we could be talking about a five or six game series, but don’t hold your breath. Golden State is just getting warmed up.

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  1. Los Angeles Clippers (4) vs. Utah Jazz (5)

The Los Angeles Clippers are in a weird spot. They have largely underachieved the past few seasons, but in a conference dominated by the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs, it’s not like they ever had much of a chance. They’ve been playing very well lately, however, and their starting five are as good as anybody’s in the top of the conference (ok, maybe not the Warriors, but who cares).

The Jazz, on the other hand, are a new product. They last made the playoffs in 2012, and the only holdovers from that team are Alec Burks, Derrick Favors, and Gordon Hayward. The Jazz were sneaky good this season, finishing with a record of 51-31. For comparison, that is the same record the Cavs and Raptors finished with this season. They might not be much compared to the powerhouses of the West, but they could become the little engine that could if they’re able to advance to the second round and steal a few games from the Warriors. Don’t sleep on the Utah Jazz, you heard it here first.

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  1. Houston Rockets (3) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (6)

Now here is the juiciest of juicy match-ups. Russell Westbrook vs. James Harden in what amounts to the MVP-Bowl of playoff series. It’s fun enough watching these two go at it for one game, but the possibility of 4,5,6, or perhaps even 7 make this must-see television for the first round. This is what everyone is going to be talking about. During the regular season series, Houston went 3-1, with both teams averaging well over 100 points in each of the four games (Houston averaged 115, while the Thunder averaged 111).

The fireworks, however, came in their final match-up of the regular season, when the two teams combined for 262 points in a 137-125 Houston victory. The interesting stat in that game? James Harden was Houston’s fourth leading scorer, while Westbrook dropped 39 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds. If they’re able to beat the Thunder and the ever-bucket-draining Westbrook in this series when Harden has a quiet night like they did on March 26th, there just isn’t much wiggle room for the Thunder to be able to take this series. Russ will have to play like a madman, and we’re assuming he will. Will it be enough? Who knows. That’s why they play the games.

 

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What you might have missed?

The past weekend has been crazy. Rumors are swirling in the NBA, Super Bowl Media week started, two tennis legends are back on the mountain top, and the NHL and NFL all star game ensued.

NBA

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Rumors continue to swirl about Carmelo Anthony, but just how true are they? Well…unfortunately, for Anthony, it looked like his stock is way down and the Knicks are looking to get rid of him for next to nothing for the caliber of player he is. The Clippers, Celtics, and Cavaliers have been linked as potential suitors for Melo. The Celtics have come out and said they weren’t interested, but they might be interested in being the third team  in a deal to help the Knicks and Clippers complete a trade. The stumbling Cavs are likely out as well as the combination of Lebron, Kyrie, and Melo would probably sour in Cleveland very quickly.

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The rumor mill is also firing up with Jimmy Butler’s name in the center of it. Rajon Rondo’s comments about the Bulls on his Instagram page didn’t go unnoticed. Tempers are flaring and what was thought to be a contender in the East, has fallen a long way off. NBA analysts have talked about the Bulls calling the Celtics in regards to a trade between the two teams involving Butler.

NHL

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The NHL All star skills competition and game took place this weekend in Los Angeles. The Atlantic came out on top in the skills competition with 9 points, but the highlight of the night was when Ryan Kesler’s son took part in the final shootout competition. Kesler’s son took the puck down the ice and dangled Montreal goalie Carey Price and slid the puck 5-hole, then followed it with an even better celebration.

The All Star game took place Sunday afternoon in the new 3v3 format. The Metropolitan division took the crown with a 10-6 victory against the Atlantic, with Wayne Simmonds getting the MVP award.

Tennis

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Roger Federer and Serena Williams made history this weekend in Australia taking home the men’s and women’s title in the Austalian open, the first major championship of the year.

Roger won his 5th Aussie open title and 18th major championship overall, the most in the open era. Federer took on his longtime rival Rafael Nadal and took him down in an epic 5 set match.

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Serena Williams cruised through the competition winning her 7th Aussie Open title and her 23rd major championship overall, a record in the open era. Williams took on her sister Venus for the first time in a final since 2009. Serena coasted to a 6-4, 6-4 victory.

NFL

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The NFL held their first skills competition since the mid 2000’s and it was an extreme waste of time. If you didn’t watch it, you did not miss out. The Pro Bowl however was a much more entertaining game with the AFC edging out a victory 20-13. It was a rare defensive battle where there was multiple turnovers and somewhat entertaining football, something we have not seen a lot from in past Pro Bowls.

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On top of the Pro Bowl, the Atlanta Falcons and the New England Patriots made their way to Houston. Media week is under way and the rest of our NFL coverage including predictions will be posted later this week so be on the look out!

NBA Weekend: What to Watch

This weekend, the NBA features a decent slate of games, so if you find yourself bored waiting around for a crazy NFL Sunday, check out some of these match-ups.

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There are several awesome games tonight. The Miami Heat will travel to Cleveland to face the Cavaliers, a matchup that used to be somewhat interesting, but is now just a reminder how quick things change in the NBA. In 2010, Heat vs. Cavs meant LeBron was going to be booed at Quicken Loans Arena. In 2014, LeBron returned to Miami with the Cavaliers to face Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and the Heat. Now, Wade is in Chicago, Bosh has no foreseeable NBA future, and James has been back in Cleveland for over 2 years.

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The Toronto Raptors will travel to Boston to face the Celtics, with the Celts trailing the Raptors by 1.5 games in the Atlantic Division. Al Horford missed a crucial game-winning layup earlier this week, so we’ll see if he can rebound against a division rival.

Other games of interest around the league Friday include Rockets at OKC on ESPN, followed by Suns at Lakers.

On Saturday, Miami will tip-off in Chicago, and for the second time Erik Spoelstra will coach against one of his former superstars. The Heat have certainly been placed in a tough position after losing Bosh and Wade in the offseason, and will have to retool if they hope to content in future seasons.

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The Warriors will face the Grizzlies as they look to continue their dominance of the Western Conference, and the Pelicans will travel to LA to face the Clippers on NBATV to round off the Saturday action.

On Sunday, there isn’t a ton of action, but the game that stands out the most is Celtics at Thunder. Russell Westbrook has been on a tear as of late, and the Celtics will be fresh off a home game against the Raptors.

 

Blake Griffin and the Clippers Comes Out Swinging in 2016-17

The 2015-16 season was many things for Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin, but “good” wasn’t one of them. On top of a partially torn left quad suffered in December, Griffin’s bar fight with a member of the team’s equipment staff and ensuing hand injury caused him to miss 47 games. Along with the missed games, Griffin became the brunt of countless Twitter jokes, such as this gem:

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(Okay, that one wasn’t even related to him punching out the equipment guy, but Griffin has been through a lot these past few seasons.)

It was strange watching someone who’s career has been built off endorsements, dunking and general excitement to be thrown into the headlines for something so negative. It was like if Rob Gronkowski got drunk and punched out someone on his party boat, it just shouldn’t happen.

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Heading into this season, Griffin needed to come back in a big way. So did the Clippers. Sure, they were 4th in a solid Western Conference last year, but they lost in the first round to the lower seeded Portland Trail Blazers in six games. That was their first opening round exit since 2013, and it marked a decline from the steady rise of previous seasons.

It’s no secret that Griffin had a big hand in the Clippers’ woes last season. Rumors were swirling about his relationship with Chris Paul, and a power struggle was apparent right up until Griffin’s incident. Part of the reason why this affected the Clippers so much is the conflict between locker room turmoil and a playing style that relied heavily on big plays and team chemistry. It’s hard to make it look good on the court when things are a mess behind the scenes.

Heading into this season, Griffin got in front of the issues as quick as possible. In a letter to Clippers fans in The Player’s Tribune, he opened by talking about the elephant in the room:

“Last season sucked. I am truly sorry. What happened in Toronto was 100% my fault. I messed up. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about it. And I don’t mean that in some clichéd “not a day goes by” way.” Griffin said. “I genuinely think about it every single day, and I just feel like I let down the fans who have been riding with us since the beginning.”

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Griffin goes on to talk about the pride he has playing for the Clippers, and talks about his relationships with everyone on the team. Even if he didn’t write it, (ironically, many players don’t write their own stuff on The Player’s Tribune), the sentiment was great. That being said, it wouldn’t mean anything if he didn’t go out on the court and back it up. But he did.

As of today, the Los Angeles Clippers are 13-2, and first in the Western Conference. Griffin leads the team in scoring with 21.9 PPG. The Clippers have one of the best defenses in the NBA, led by Deandre Jordan, who currently sits at 5th in the NBA in rebounds. Chris Paul leads the league in steals, and the team as a whole appears to be finding a groove.

It’s hard to say whether or not the Clippers will be able to keep pace with the highly skilled Golden State Warriors in the West, but as of now, they’re off to one of the best starts in recent memory. Early on, Griffin could be the potential frontrunner for comeback player of the year. If he can go out and have a successful season, the Clippers as a whole will look pretty good come playoff time. Until then? Well, as Griffin put it in his letter, “F— it. Let’s just go out and play basketball.”