Better title chance?
Sense of urgency is key
This is a tough sell. The Clippers have already mounted a winning streak longer than the total amount of wins the Lakers have this season. The Clippers have not only the best record in the Pacific Division and the best record in the Western Conference -- they have the best record in the NBA. And the Clippers have the best point guard on the planet in Chris Paul. How could the Lakers be in a better position to win it all come playoff time?
Experience and urgency. The last time Kobe Bryant was on a Lakers team that added two teammates with Hall of Fame credentials in Gary Payton and Karl Malone in 2003-04, the Lakers took their lumps by losing 12 of 19 games in a stretch through December and January. But that team rallied to make it to the NBA Finals.
Bryant can lean on that experience to keep the current group featuring future HOFers Steve Nash and Dwight Howard positive when things look bleak. If, and it's a big if, the Lakers can use their recent five-game winning streak (from Dec. 14-25) as evidence that they can get it done when they work together and use that as the model for their last 50 games, then they could be a dangerous team come playoff time.
If they are rolling by then and Bryant, Nash and coach Mike D'Antoni truly believe they have legitimate shot at a championship, their sense of urgency to wrangle a ring before their window of opportunity could be all-consuming and create a team on a mission.
They've got all the pieces
I know what you're thinking. I've heard it enough over the past two months to know it's what many people are thinking. The Clippers are a nice little story and their 17-game streak was great and all, but it won't transfer to playoff success.
The biggest reason skeptics think the Clippers won't win in the playoffs is because, well, they're the Clippers. But those days are over. Forget about the name on the front of their jerseys and focus on the names on the back. The Clippers are legitimate championship contenders because of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, Jamal Crawford and the best bench in the NBA.
Forget about history. The Clippers actually have more players on their roster with rings (four) than the Lakers (three) and they have a player from the rosters of the past four NBA champions. And forget about this notion that the Clippers don't have playoff experience. In their first playoff run last season, they came back from a 24-point deficit with less than eight minutes left in Memphis and closed that series out on the road in Game 7.
As much as people talk about flipping switches, how a team plays in the regular season usually does give you an indication of how it will play in the postseason. The Clippers had the best record in the NBA while the Lakers were below .500 31 games into the season. If you don't think that says anything about both teams, you're simply not paying attention. And before Lakers fans belittle the Clippers' 17-game winning streak, consider this: Just 17 teams in league history have ever won 17 games in a row, and of the previous 16 teams, nine went on to play in the Finals.