L.A. Clippers vs. Phoenix Suns
April 3, 2013
7:30 p.m. PST
FOX Prime Ticket
3-Seed Western Conference Standings Check
Denver Nuggets, 50-24
L.A. Clippers, 49-26, 1.5 GB
Memphis Grizzlies, 50-24, 0 GB
The Clippers are now 1.5 games back of both the Grizzlies and the Nuggets in the Western Conference standings. Do they have a chance to snag home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs? Onto 3-on-3:
1. Should the Clippers kiss home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs goodbye?
Patrick James, (@patrickmjames): It’s not mathematically impossible, but it’s looking dicey. Sitting two games behind Memphis and Denver in the loss column with seven games to play, the Clippers need every win they can find if they want home court advantage. Beating Memphis on April 13 could be a boon to their cause, but the team might even need to win out at this point
Fred Katz, (@FredKatz): While it doesn’t look great right now, the Clips still have a chance. They sit two games back in the loss column to both Denver and Memphis, but here’s the good news: there is still a game left against the Grizzlies, which is the only remaining game on the schedule against a team that is currently in the playoffs.
Michael Shagrin, (@mshaggy): Unless the team that trots out onto the court Wednesday night regains the sense of urgency and general competence from the historic 17-game tear, absolutely kiss home court advantage goodbye. The Nuggets and Grizzlies have continued to improve as the season has progressed with a barely noticeable deviation here and there. The Clippers, on the other hand, are only 10-8 since the All-Star break.
2. What is the problem with the Clippers’ starters right now?
James: They can’t stop anyone. The starting unit hasn’t looked right since Paul banged knees with JJ Redick on January 12; the Clippers are 21-15 since then. Two years ago, any 21-15 stretch would have had me popping bottles. Considering what could have been this year, that record has me wanting to drown my sorrows.
Katz: It sounds so basic, but there’s no energy at all. The Clippers aren’t just getting beaten out of the gate, but they’re also getting dominated in third quarters. They’re lazy and flat-footed on defense, they’re not running much, and the intensity doesn’t seem to be there. It’s a problem.
Shagrin: The starting lineup that has been struggling so mightily has been the first unit for most of the season, one of the few constants in the Clippers rather variable rotation. My hypothesis is that opposing coaches identify the rather glaring defensive weaknesses amongst the starters in their first matchup of the season. So, when they face the Clippers a second or third time, they’re prepared to exploit the aging wing corps in Vinny Del Negro’s primitive defensive scheme.
3. Do the Clips finally get their 50th win?
James: The Clippers have laid some curious eggs against Phoenix these last two seasons, but I think they pull this one out. If they do, the historic win will give fans a reprieve from the team’s recent struggles — and maybe an emotional boost for the team itself. That said, if the Clippers can’t beat Phoenix at home, does it even matter what their playoff seeding is?
Katz: I’ll say yes. If the Clippers can’t win at home against the Suns, they have even more serious problems than the ones we’ve been talking about over the past few weeks. This is one they have to win, no question.
Shagrin: Yes. The Suns have just one victory in their last ten games, the promotion of Lindsey Hunter to head coach has been a low-key disaster, and a perfectly healthy Goran Dragic has been held out of the last two games due to “exhaustion”. If the Clippers can’t get win number 50 on Wednesday, I’d start worrying about that thing nobody’s supposed to be worrying about.