This weekend marks the third of five straight Sundays in which the NBA will play in primetime in India. You can catch the action this Sunday at 9:30pm IST on Ten 1 and Ten 3.
- March 10: Pistons def. Bulls
- March 17: Lakers at Knicks
- March 24: Clippers at Knicks
- March 31: Bucks at Pistons
- April 7: Heat at Raptors
With the LA Clippers one of the NBA's hottest teams since the All-Star break, here's a closer look into how they're shaping up as a formidable postseason opponent.
Best since the break
Heading into the All-Star break in mid-February, the Clippers were fighting for their playoff lives and in a heated race for the eighth spot in the West. At the time, they were a game up on the Sacramento Kings and just three games up on LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers. According to FiveThirtyEight's playoff projections, they had a 61 percent chance of making it, a good chance yet far from certain.
They've responded by playing like one of the best teams in the NBA. While the Kings (6-9) and Lakers (3-12) have stumbled, the Clippers have gone 11-3, the 2nd-best record in the NBA behind only the Houston Rockets with their only losses coming to the Denver Nuggets, Utah Jazz and Portland Trail Blazers.
Offensively, the Clippers have done it mostly by revving up their offence.
After ranking ninth in pace prior to the break, they're playing at the NBA's fourth-fastest pace since.
Leading the way is the dynamic duo of Lou Williams (21.5 PPG) and Danilo Gallinari (23.0 PPG), both of whom have seen significant upticks in scoring after the All-Star break. Gallinari has taken the reins as the clear leader of the starting unit following the trade of Tobias Harris to the Philadelphia 76ers while Williams is making a strong push for his third Sixth Man of the Year award.
Can they spring a 1st-Round upset?
While they'll likely finish as either the 7-seed or 8-seed, the Clippers could realistically reach as high as the 5-seed. No matter who they face, they'll have a shot of winning a 1st-round series.
They key for the Clippers is simply keeping it close.
Should games come down to the wire, the stats favour the Clippers who have been the NBA's best clutch team this season, outscoring teams by 17.2 points per 100 possessions. That's over twice as good as the Warriors who rank fifth in the league with a clutch net rating of +7.1. It's slightly better than the Nuggets who rank third. While far from settled, those are their most likely opening round opponents.
It's a stat that matters. Last year's top four teams in the clutch during the regular season - Rockets, Pacers, Cavaliers and 76ers - all proved worthy playoff teams.
- The Rockets reached the Conference Finals and held a 3-1 lead over the Warriors.
- The Pacers pushed LeBron James to a Game 7
- The Cavaliers (after surviving a tough series against the Pacers) reached the NBA Finals
- The 76ers won their opening round series in five games
When the Clippers need a bucket, they go to Lou Williams who has been one of the NBA's best with the game on the line. He ranks among the league leaders in made shots in the final minute one-possession games, including this game-winning shot against the Nets.
"BINGO!"- NBA (@NBA) March 18, 2019
Lou Williams gets to his spot and buries the #TissotBuzzerBeater to win it for the @LAClippers! #ThisIsYourTime #ClipperNation pic.twitter.com/CDBBIDmURH
Williams has been a better late-game scorer than any of the main offensive players on either the Warriors or Nuggets. Here is how he compares on shots in the final minute and score within three points. While he might not have the name recognition of Stephen Curry or Kevin Durant, he's been more prolific than both of them combined!
Make no mistake, the Clippers would be underdogs in either series. But their play the second half of the season and ability to close out games would make them a potentially tricky team to see early on.
This is definitely a team worth keeping up with over the final few weeks of the regular season and primetime on Sunday is the perfect time to tune in!