The Western Conference will not provide many easy games for the Los Angeles Clippers, so it is imperative that the team get off to a fast start. Of the team’s first nine games, seven are at home–and the eighth is against the Los Angeles Lakers in Staples Center.
Of those nine games, the Clippers should be clear favorites in five of them. The Clippers should also have an advantage against the Memphis Grizzlies and Utah Jazz, especially on their home floor.
The Clippers need to start the season 2-0. They are fully healthy, and they get the Lakers and Phoenix Suns right out of the gate. Both opponents finished in the top four of last season’s NBA Draft.
The only game that will see the Clippers as decided underdogs will come on Oct. 30 against the Golden State Warriors. That contest will provide head coach Doc Rivers with an early-season litmus test for the new-look Clippers. Patrick Beverley’s effectiveness as a perimeter defender will emerge as a storyline worth following in that game.
The Clippers should be shooting for a 6-3 start to the season, which would represent a solid start considering all of the new pieces.
According to DeAndre Jordan, the Clippers are still striving to play a high-flying, entertaining brand of basketball. “I don’t think we ever lost that,” the Clippers center said. “We’ve got guys who can make passes like that. … We’re going to continue to play the way that we’ve been this camp and just try to keep it going.”
A fast start would create a buzz around the Clippers, who will look decidedly different than they have in the past. Even though Chris Paul is gone, Milos Teodosic has the potential to be every bit the distributor–if not better–that Paul was. The rest of his game will need to develop, though.
In the first nine games, Rivers will likely mix and match in an attempt to find the appropriate lineups. Out of the gate, Teodosic and fellow newcomer Patrick Beverley would make the most sense as the starting guards, but he could opt to bring the international point guard along slowly.
The team believes, however, that it built a solid foundational chemistry while training in Hawaii. Blake Griffin hopes that carries into the regular season.
“I’m happy with this camp,” the power forward said. “It was a good nine days and now it’s time to get back home and take the next step.”
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