The NBA playoffs are set, and the best 1st round matchup is definitely James Harden vs Russell Westbrook. Nothing in the East jumps out. But another matchup in the West is mildly fascinating because it could be the end of the road for one team: The LA Clippers. Game 1 vs Utah is Saturday night.
With a Big 3 of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, the Clippers were swept in the 2nd round in 2012 by the Spurs, then upset in the first round by the Grizzlies in 2013, and fired Vinny Del Negro.
Enter Doc Rivers as coach/GM, and he was supposed to guide the franchise to at least to the conference finals, but hopefully more.
2014: 57 wins, lost in the 2nd round
2015: 56 wins, lost in the 2nd round (actually, choked up a 3-1 lead)
2016: 53 wins, lost in the 1st round
Yes, injuries happen. And the Clippers have been unlucky more than once in the postseason, losing Griffin and CP3 last year.
This year’s playoff run will almost certainly be Doc’s last with his core: CP3 can opt-out of his contract in July. So can Blake Griffin. Redick is a free agent.
So now, the Jazz. The Clippers won the season series 3-1, but it doesn’t mean anything. Utah has its on issues to deal with this offseason. Gordon Hayward can opt-out of his deal – Chris Broussard speculates on his podcast that Hayward could end up in Boston – George Hill is a free agent. But this is all about the Clippers.
Let’s say the Clippers pull it together and happen to beat the Jazz. They’ll have earned a series with the Warriors. We can re-visit Stephen Curry vs Chris Paul. The last Western Conference team to beat the Warriors in the playoffs? Doc Rivers and the Clippers in 2014.
The Warriors have won the last 10 meetings between the two teams. A sweep would be a fitting end to the Doc Rivers era in LA.