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Friday, April 27, 2012
10 reasons to be excited the Clippers are in the playoffs

By Pedro Moura


1. This simply hasn't happened very often. It is the Clippers' fifth playoff appearance since 1976 and first since 2006. When things that don't happen do happen, celebration and excitement typically are in order. This is one of those situations.

2. Chris Paul. The Clippers' new point guard and fearless leader has proved time and again -- with this team and in previous years -- to be an ideal closer, perfect for playoff situations. He's arguably been the best closer of any star in the league this season, and fans in L.A. are well aware of it.

3. The Clippers beat Memphis, their first-round opponent, in two of three meetings this season, including a 16-point smashing in L.A. in March that was one of the team's best performances. The Clippers may not have home-court advantage, but they might at least have the matchup advantage -- albeit by a small amount.

4. Plus, San Antonio -- the Clips’ likely opponent if they get by Memphis –- isn’t a terrible team for them to face either. The squads have met three times this season: The Spurs won the first game, way back in December, by 25. But the Clippers won the third (with Tony Parker hurt) and they took San Antonio to overtime in the in-between game. It'd be unlikely that L.A. could pull off the upset, but not impossible.

5. Three key supporting-cast Clippers have 25 or more playoff starts under their belts in Kenyon Martin, Mo Williams and Caron Butler. Sure, that is in contrast to the lack of postseason experience of Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and Randy Foye. But the 25-plus starts are also more than any single Memphis player can boast, so the Clippers will not be out-experienced in the first round.

6. Memphis gets its points from a variety of sources – Rudy Gay was the only Grizzlies player to average 15 or more points this season. You can’t really say that about the two-headed tandem of the Clippers, especially of late, but, in looking back at the three L.A.-Memphis matchups this year, the Clippers did a good job of spreading around the scoring. Seven current Clippers have averaged at least eight points against the Grizz this year.

7. Expectations are not all that high. If the Clippers make the second round and lose, there probably won’t be too many cries of disappointment. The refrain would be that they needed some time to get used to each other and were hurt by their new additions and injuries. They may just play loose, with a sense of nothing to lose.

8. The fact that the Clippers have to start out on the road is going to give many fans serious misgivings, and rightfully so. But at least realize this about the team's away-from-home struggles this season: They were a little bit alleviated as the year went on. It took the Clips more than a month to record a road win over a playoff-caliber team, but they started to do it more and more in March and April. You could argue that the Clippers' biggest problem won't be stealing one on the road but actually sealing down all three at home.

9. Zach Randolph. The Grizzlies forward serves as a reminder of how far this franchise has come in the last three years. Since the Clippers won the lottery 35 months ago and earned the right to select Griffin, so many things have changed. Among those changes was the status of Randolph, whom the Clippers dealt to Memphis a week after the draft. He went from being acquired by the team to being the team's leading scorer to being traded away in a matter of a half-year.

10. Remember the last time the Clippers made the playoffs, after the 2005-2006 season? It was actually a pretty good run back then. They beat the Nuggets in five games despite being on the short end of a 3-6 matchup, then gave the 2-seed Phoenix Suns a great run for their money in the Western Conference semifinals. A thing or two done differently in Game 5 that year and the Clippers might have been going against the Dallas Mavericks in the conference finals for the right to face the Miami Heat. So, strange as it seems, history might actually be something the Clippers can lean on this time around.