Thursday, May 04, 2006

Down to Business....

Let's talk Clippers, shall we?

Obviously, it's nice to have won the first round series so handily, but I'm not sure what it says, because let's face facts, that Nuggets are HORRIBLE. Third seed crap notwithstanding, they finished the regular season tied with Sacramento for the 7th best record in the West. By any reasonable measure they were clearly the worst Western Conference playoff team entering the playoffs (point differential +0.2, 4-8 in their last 12, losers of 4 straight) and their regular season record was inflated (as always) by the home court advantage of playing at elevation, an advantage that disappears in the playoffs where opponents have more time in the city and can become acclimated.

In addition to being the weakest playoff team in the West, the Nuggets were also the dream match up for the Clippers. Dunleavy's defensive schemes are all about double teaming players to take teams out of their normal sets, and then rotating to cover the open guy. The best way to hurt this style of defense is by spreading the floor and hitting jump shots on kick outs, something the Nuggets do worse than anyone in the league (and they were worse still in the playoffs.)

All of this is why I found all the 'tanking' talk so interesting back in mid April. For a while, when they were playing for 50 wins (which would have been a franchise record), that was fine. But when Denver lost to Sacto on April 15, assuring the Clippers of HCA against the Nuggets, they absolutely HAD to fall to 6. I mean, C'MON! Do you want to win in the playoffs or not? It's my understanding that each home game is worth about $1M to the team. Which means that game 5 at home is $1M more than Memphis made losing in 4 to Dallas. And the next 2 (or 3 or 4) home games in the next round are worth $1M more each also. They had a financial obligation to lose to Memphis in April. (I'm not sure why Memphis didn't see the urgency in this situation as well. It really helped the Clippers that they won the season series with Denver, so they could start tanking, I'm sorry resting starters, earlier than Memphis. Now Memphis owns the all-time playoff losing streak of 0-12, but at least they have their dignity.)

But it actually goes beyond the Denver matchup. The Clippers ended up in a bracket with Phoenix and the Lakers. Their season record against these teams was 3-1 (DEN), 2-2 (PHX) and 2-2 (LAL). Meanwhile on the other side, they were 1-3 (DAL), 1-2 (SAS), 1-3 (MEM) and 0-4 (SAC). Which bracket would you rather be in?

So, as I said, it was nice to beat the Nuggets, but the way they were playing, and after the Kenyon Martin thing (KMart Sucks!), it would have been a disaster had they not beaten them.

Now, with Raja out for game 6, it sure looks like we're going to get the 'Hallway Series' starting Saturday. And HCA in the Western Conference Semis! WOW!

But is a matchup with the Lakers the Clippers dream come true, or their worst nightmare? OK, I'll wait 8 hours until Game 6 of Suns-Lakers is over before I go there.