The stage is set for the LA Clippers to go on a deep playoff run.
Down 2-0 against Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks, it was easy to pile on the blame. Even down 3-2 against the Mavs, not many were giving the LA Clippers a great chance of advancing to the Western Conference semifinals. However, after two clutch performances for Kawhi Leonard and Paul George that allowed the Clippers to get past the pesky Mavs, the stage is now set for this team to make a run to the NBA Finals.
With LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers officially eliminated from postseason play, the Clippers have now become the clear favorites to win the Western Conference. Even though the Utah Jazz and Phoenix Suns had better regular seasons and are ranked higher in terms of playoff standing, not many are going to bet against this duo right now.
Kawhi was magical in the series against the Mavs, but he took his game to another level when facing elimination.
Kawhi has been sensational for the LA Clippers this postseason
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In the three “must-win” games of the series against Dallas (in Game 3, down 2-0, and in Games 6 and 7, facing elimination), Kawhi averaged 36 points, five assists, and eight rebounds per game on 72 percent shooting from the field and 53 percent shooting from 3-point range – all while also playing sensational defense, oftentimes on Luka Doncic.
And while George won’t get the credit that he probably deserves for his performance in this series; he finished by averaging 24 points, nine rebounds, and six assists on 46 percent shooting from the field.
As long as the Clippers’ dynamic duo continue to play at this high level, this is a team that many are going to point to as the favorites to emerge from the West playoff bracket. After that, anything is on the table against any of the Eastern Conference contenders.
First things first, the Clippers will have to prove that it can get over the hump that comes in the way of the regular-season West champs. After shaking off a rusty start against the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round of the playoffs, the Utah Jazz has looked more and more like their contender selves.
In the regular season, the Clippers didn’t have much success against the Jazz. LA was 1-2 against Utah in their three pairings and will certainly need to play much better against the Jazz than they did in their first-round series against the Mavs to get through them.
If we see the version of the Clippers that dominated the Mavs in Games 6 and 7, there’s a good chance LA can push the Jazz.
Even though Utah is pretty much an afterthought as a contender, this is a team that has been battle-tested over the last few years in the playoffs and one that has all the ingredients for an NBA Finals run. This is not going to be an easy win for the Clippers, simply based on big-name recognition.
The Jazz is one of the deepest teams in the NBA and certainly has that advantage over the Clippers heading into the start of this series. As cliche as it may sound, this could very well come down to which star shines brightest for their respective teams – Donovan Mitchell or Kawhi.
So far this postseason, Kawhi has made a strong case for being the best player in the playoffs. And because of that, the Clippers should feel good about their playoff chances moving forward.