The Clippers could break through in the playoffs

Paul George and the Clippers could be a team to surprise.

Paul George and the Clippers might be a staff to shock.
Illustration: Getty Images

Everyone’s favourite time of the yr is lastly right here. We’re simply days away from the NBA’s Play-in Tournament as eight groups battle for the suitable to get their spines pulled from them within the first spherical. I’ll be trustworthy, I wasn’t a giant fan of the Play-in when it was first launched. I believed it watered down the postseason, basically letting all people and their mamas into the playoffs.

But I’ll admit it provides further intrigue to the previous few weeks of the common season. Especially since we’ve had groups anticipated to be on the high of their convention pressured to play their means into the primary spherical.

How does the Play-in Tournament work?

Instituted final season the Play-in Tournament expands the playoffs to 10 groups in every convention. The first six seeds skip the Play-in and transfer on to the primary spherical. The seven and eight seeds face off with the winner changing into the seven seed. The 9 and ten seeds meet with the winner enjoying the loser of that seven-eight matchup. The winner of that ultimate sport takes the eighth and ultimate spot within the conventional playoffs.

Last yr LeBron James and the Lakers battled Steph Curry and the Warriors within the Western Conference Play-in for the No. 7 seed. In the closing seconds, the Lakers received that sport with a deep three from James. Golden State moved on to face a hungry Memphis squad for the No. 8 seed dropping that sport as properly.

What the Play-in appears like in 2022

This yr, the opposite Los Angeles staff must make their means by way of the Play-in Tournament out West in the event that they hope to make one other run much like final postseason. The Clippers made it to their first-ever Western Conference Finals and pushed the Phoenix Suns to 6 video games in that sequence. Even with the current return of Paul George and Norman Powell, the highway to glory shall be rather more difficult this time.

The Clippers’ other star, Kawhi Leonard, hasn’t touched the court docket all season, and it’s uncertain he’ll return within the postseason. L.A. had Leonard’s companies for about half of final yr’s run, however now they have to do it with out him. I feel the Clippers have an awesome likelihood to make it out of the Play-in and win their first-round sequence.

Out West, Play-in Tournament positioning isn’t in as a lot flux as within the Eastern Conference. The Timberwolves and Clippers are locked into the No. 7 & 8 seeds. The similar goes for the Pelicans and Spurs, though their final couple of regular-season video games will decide who goes into the Play-in at Nos. 9 & 10.

How will this yr play out?

I see the Clippers going to Minnesota and beating the T-Wolves for the seven seed. But the Wolves will nonetheless make the playoffs by beating the winner of Pelicans-Spurs to seize the eight seed. That final result matches up the Clippers with an thrilling younger Memphis Grizzlies staff. And which means the Minny would get the 60-win Suns.

Believe it or not, if it occurs like that, I’ll take the Clippers over the Grizzlies in seven video games. Yes, I do know the Grizzlies beat them every time they performed throughout the common season. But Paul George missed a few these video games, Kawhi wasn’t there for any of them, clearly, and Powell solely performed one of many 4 conferences. The Clippers are nearly again to full energy apart from Leonard’s absence (did you hear he was noticed at apply the opposite day). Call me loopy, however I nonetheless suppose L.A. could have sufficient to beat the Grizzlies with out Leonard.

For Minnesota, ought to they be unfortunate sufficient to get the eight seed, it was an awesome season by their traditional requirements. They’ll be fortunate to win one sport towards the Suns. Phoenix in 4 video games over Minnesota if it involves this. Karl-Anthony Towns is enjoying like a beast this yr, however that received’t be sufficient for these child wolves to deal with the Suns.

It’s the second spherical the place issues might get difficult for the Clippers. If the Clippers escape the primary spherical because the seven seed, they’d should face the three seed-six seed winner. The Warriors maintain a half-game lead over the Mavericks for third place within the West. Against a wholesome Warriors staff, I can see the Clippers stealing a sport, probably two. But Curry’s been out lately with a foot harm, so we don’t know the place he’ll be bodily.

With Curry on the ground, I’ll take them over a Kawhi-less Clippers squad. But I doubt Curry shall be again at 100% that quickly, so I really feel this might nonetheless be a six- or seven-game sequence. Ultimately, the Warriors shall be favored to win this sequence. But if Curry misses a sport or two, then the Warriors are in bother.

Dallas might additionally find yourself within the No. 3 slot within the West if issues go their means over the following few days. If that occurs, and so they and the Clippers make it out of the primary spherical, we’d get a Mavs-Clippers sequence for the third consecutive postseason. The Clippers have taken the earlier two, however this yr might be fairly completely different. Luka Dončić has had his means with the Clippers within the playoffs. But now, these Mavs have prioritized protection. I feel the third time is perhaps the appeal towards the Clippers, ought to the bracket unfold this fashion. Dončić and the Mavs competing within the Western Conference finals doesn’t sound all that loopy.

There are so many situations the Play-in provides to the postseason. We get first-round matchups we didn’t count on to see coming into the season, and this yr, as expressed, I feel a Play-in staff will get into the second spherical. The Clippers received’t be your regular seven seed. If Paul George doesn’t get injured in December, they’d most likely be preventing with Dallas and Golden State for third or fourth place within the West. As a lot as I wish to low cost the Play-in Tournament, it’s getting laborious to take action when it provides such drama to the tip of the common season. 

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