Before the season began, the Los Angeles Clippers looked poised to be the best of the West. Now, they’re only 11.00 to win the Conference. But it’s still all up for grabs in what is surely an eight-team chase to end up in the Finals.
Take out surging New Orleans and insert stumbling Oklahoma City, in fact, and its quite possible anyone that makes the post-season will have a shot at going the distance.
And while only 4.5 games currently separate Memphis in second and Dallas in seventh, the Clippers still look to have the greatest room for improvement headed into this weekend’s Texas two-stop against the Mavericks and Houston.
LA’s top guns are leading the entire NBA in offensive efficiency for the second straight season while nothing 106.2 points per night. And much of their ascent in recent weeks is down to MVP-level play from Chris Paul who is putting up 22 points and 12.3 assists since the All Star break, both well up on his numbers in the first half of the campaign.
But amid their ups and downs, they’re also getting a massive boost from DeAndre Jordan, who is on pace to become only the second player after Wilt Chamberlain to lead the league in field goal percentage and rebounding in successive years with the centre averaging 11.3 points and 14.6 boards per game.
He’s also notching 17.5 and 21.0 in his two prior meetings with Dallas – both LA wins - this season, something which could swing the balance on Friday, even in the continued absence of Black Griffin and Jamal Crawford.
When those two return, it’s not inconceivable that the Clippers could make a run at second seeding.
Sunday’s visit to Houston may be tougher with Houston third in defensive efficiency, despite Dwight Howard missing more than half their games. But even with the Rockets coming off a 109-91 spanking in Utah on Thursday, have a punt on going over 215.0 total points when the Clips come to town.
Best bet: Back the Clippers at -4.5 on the handicap against Dallas at 3.00