None of this appeared doable a number of months in the past. However, in lower than per week, the 2020 NBA playoffs are set to get underway. The Los Angeles Clippers, who secured the second seed within the Western Convention, will face the No. 7 seeded Dallas Mavericks.
This time final season, the Clippers had been the scrappy eighth seed and, whereas they had been clearly outmatched, they by no means backed down; they threw all the pieces they’d on the Golden State Warriors. A strong group of gamers, led by Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell, Patrick Beverley, Ivica Zubac, and so forth, the overall consensus was that, already with a robust supporting solid, the Clippers simply wanted a star to place all of it collectively.
In fact, leaping from the eighth to the second spot in a highly-competitive Western Convention is nothing to scoff at. However, when Kawhi Leonard and Paul George donned Clipper jerseys that summer time, it modified all the pieces. Now, Los Angeles isn’t mulling over common season success and even season-to-season improvment — they’ve one thing else on their minds, their sights set on one thing greater: the NBA Finals and the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
To make it clear, getting right here hasn’t been simple. Regardless of the arrival of Leonard and George, Los Angeles had a tough time staying wholesome: numerous gamers missed a handful of video games right here and there, the star-duo included, and it was uncommon to see the roster at one hundred pc well being. And but, after they did managed to have everybody on the courtroom, they confirmed why they had been thought of a favourite to win the title.
Past that, questions remained as as to if or not the Clippers would be capable of string collectively sufficient consistency and cohesiveness with a full lineup to have the ability to gel as a unit earlier than the playoffs started.
Then, the season got here to an abrupt halt because the COVID-19 pandemic swept throughout the globe.
Regardless of the non-wavering optimism from Commissioner Adam Silver and the gamers themselves, the 2019-20 season was in severe jeopardy. Later, when the NBA introduced their plan to renew an Orlando bubble, it was met with some main skepticism — groups had been basically being requested to make the trek to a area the place the virus has continued to run rampant. However they held agency, with the idea that correct precautions could be taken and the proper security controls could be utilized.
And so they had been proper — regardless of some minor hiccups, the bubble has been an enormous success. And, as humorous as it could appear, the scenario has benefitted the Clippers: with most disjointed after an extended mid-season layoff, seeding may not imply as a lot as it will have in another regular season. With no home-court benefit, each recreation ought to show a stage enjoying area.
In that vein, head coach Doc Rivers defined that the group didn’t actually speak concerning the two seed within the locker room after they secured the spot with their win over the Denver Nuggets final Wednesday.
“I didn’t point out we secured the 2 seed. I don’t suppose anyone within the locker room talked about it. We actually don’t care,” Rivers stated. “We wish to win all of it. We acquired to enhance as a group, we all know that. Now we have work to do. We’re going into the playoffs with that mindset, that’s the one factor that issues proper now for us.”
Not solely that, however the non permanent hiatus might have benefitted the Clippers in one other manner; given their lack of ability to area a wholesome roster, the pause allowed for some much-needed relaxation and time to hyper-focus on the duty at hand.
Now, the Clippers are as near full energy as they might presumably be, save for Harrell who simply returned to the bubble after the loss of life of a member of the family. He’ll should undergo a compulsory quarantine earlier than he’s allowed to rejoin his teammates and put together for the postseason.
However for Leonard and George particularly, they’re feeling the perfect they’ve felt all season lengthy.
“I assumed coming into this, I did an awesome job making ready for the bubble,” George stated after the win over the Nuggets. “My wind is just not fairly the place I need it, however it’s higher than the place it was… I really feel actually good. Kawhi has been feeling actually good. I feel simply general the employees is managing us happening the stretch.”
These playoffs are going to be one thing completely different, in contrast to any we’ve seen earlier than. Gamers all the time needed to be at peak kind come the postseason, however with no home-court, it’s going to be much more about who is prepared and who actually got here to Orlando to compete.
The Clippers have seemed slightly bit inconsistent for the reason that bubble video games acquired underway, however so have the Los Angeles Lakers and Milwaukee Bucks, the groups thought of to be the Clippers largest threats to the 2019 championship.
Lou Williams has performed on quite a lot of completely different groups over his 15-year NBA profession, however at the start of this season, he talked about that he felt like this was the perfect shot he had at successful that elusive NBA title. And now, with the playoffs lastly right here, he nonetheless feels that manner.
“I feel we’re a extremely gifted group. I feel the one factor that may cease us actually is the hassle we put forth out on the ground, how a lot we play collectively,” Williams stated after the win over the Nuggets. “Meshing is necessary to us, all people being on the identical accord on the offensive and defensive finish…We really feel like we’re in charge of our future. If all people locks in, will get on the identical web page, I actually like our alternative.”