The Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat have a lot in common, but when the Los Angeles Clippers put an end to the former’s seven-game win streak on Sunday, the two found yet another, slightly more embarrassing, similarity.
Though each team sits second in their respective conference – trailing notable opponents that three months ago seemed far too old contend for an NBA championship – that’s not all the two consensus title favorites can bond over during the All-Star break this season.
Let’s forget that the two most anticipated clubs find themselves chasing down expiring future Hall of Fame power forwards or that they have identical 30-12 records, and focus on the negative.
Earlier this week the Miami Heat had their 14-game road winning streak snapped and tonight it was Kobe Bryant and company having one of their own significant runs put to a halt. The offender in each particular scenario was the 14-25 Clippers.
On Sunday afternoon we saw a pair of kids lead the least reputable NBA franchise in league history to a come-from-behind victory over the reigning champions.
En route to the win, Eric Gordon posted an impressive 30 points and rookie Blake Griffin looked as Blake Griffin as ever. More importantly, though, the Clips became the sixth team in the NBA to have recorded wins against each of the two prized contenders this season. The Clips became one of just three with sub-.500 records to do so, and by far the most compelling.
When you think about it, the LA Clippers are shaping up to be one of the most intriguing teams in the second half of the NBA season. They are, I suppose, led by a 21-year-old power forward capable of punching a hole in the side of a school bus and an underrated 22-year-old scorer putting up more points per game than either Dirk Nowitzki or Carmelo Anthony, it’s hard not to be impressed.
With the win the Clippers accomplished what five other franchises had already managed to accomplish this season. So why then, are the Clippers such a big deal?
Of the six teams to have doubled up, three are fairly obvious. The Chicago Bulls, Denver Nuggets and Utah Jazz are talented, capable teams, no doubt, but not the type of team that would alert any suspicion with a big time win over a big time opponents.
Impressive? Yes. News-worthy? Not as much. It comes as no surprise that perennial contenders win big games.
In stark contrast, neither the Clippers, Pacers or Grizzlies have even sniffed a successful season in recent memory. That they’ve all been able to slay both Goliaths 1 and 2 is more of an enigma than anything else.
The Indiana Pacers haven’t managed to do much this season, but on Nov. 22 they took down the Heat and on Nov. 28, the Lakers. The Memphis Grizzlies – perhaps the most surprising of all – thwarted the Lakers twice in addition to stifling the Heat in the first of what ended up a panic-inducing three-game Miami slide last November.
But are either the Pacers or Grizzlies as feared as the Clippers? Not likely. Would either strike fear in the Lakers or Heat if the teams were to meet tomorrow? No.
It’s been a long time since the Clippers were an imposing force, but with a rapidly-improving Griffin shouldering more responsibility each and every game, the team is starting to look like a potential playoff candidate in a tough Western Conference – even if their current record says anything but.
They have a way to go yet, but with Gordon, Griffin and a re-energized Baron Davis as motivated as ever, the future’s as optimistic as it has been since the days of Lamar Odom, Darius Miles and Quentin Richardson – probably even before then.
With no disrespect to the Grizzlies or Pacers, neither is capable of making the impact the Clippers could make this season simply due to limited rosters with limited potential, so we can chalk their wins up as outliers in a long, 82-game season. The Jazz, Nuggets and Bulls, on the other hand, are simply just doing what they’ve done for years.
When it comes to Blake Griffin and the Clippers, the fact that they’ve managed to take down both the Heat and the Lakers, is more than just a trivial footnote at the bottom of the schedule, it’s a message.
A message that the Lakers and Heat now finally have in common, even if the remaining 27 franchises will get it soon enough.