The formula to win a NBA championship, the consensus claims, is simplicity itself.
At least two members of the basketball A-List. A quality supporting cast, including a high-grade defensive stopper and a shooting assassin. Plus a coach who can make the small differences in moments of huge importance.
The Los Angeles Clippers tick every box. So why does it feel like a failure to see off the San Antonio Spurs in a first round Playoffs series that resumes on Friday might make us wonder if they need to rip it up and start again?
The preseason picks of many, myself included, to lift the title, LA’s less fashionable team haven’t been a total flop. They went 56-26 in the regular season, good enough for a share of the second-best record in the NBA.
They’re the Association’s highest scoring squad at 106.7 per game, even with Blake Griffin missing 15 games and perennial Sixth Man bomber Jamal Crawford sitting out 18.
But still, they don’t have the look of a side that will be basking in confetti come June. The Clips went a woeful 21-21 against opponents with .500 records or better and were 3-5 in games decided by three points or less.
Even Griffin’s first career triple-double couldn’t stop the Spurs from winning 111-107 in OT to level the series on Thursday. His turnover, plus a failure to hold a lead, summed up their fragility with 17 free throws missing the mark.
The Clippers – now 12.00 to rally for a 4-1 series triumph - may take some hope from their ability to win on the road, including a 20-point victory in San Antonio earlier this season.
Yet there’s a good reason why the Spurs are 3.25 to advance with a 4-2 series victory and are 1.55 to take Game 3. They know what it takes, when it counts.
Unless LA can clip their rivals wings, it could signal the start of an overhaul that lasts well into the summer as the algorithm gets rebooted.
Best bet: Go under 200.5 points in San Antonio-Los Angeles at around 2.23
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