The Los Angeles Clippers are currently the occupants of the four-seed in the NBA’s Western Conference. However, they are also jostling for position in the West as the Clippers, Memphis Grizzlies and Denver Nuggets are all within a half game of each other. Though the 45-21 Clippers have been a really good team this season, it’s time for them to hit another gear. The key for L.A. elevating their play is Chris Paul elevating his play.
It’s odd to say that Paul needs to elevate his play. For most of the season he has been in the “if LeBron James wasn’t in the league, who would be the MVP” conversation and rightfully so. Paul has had an unbelievable season, averaging 16.6 points, 9.6 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 2.4 steals per game and shooting 48.2 percent from the floor.
However, one of the things that Paul is known for is saving a little bit of his energy or a few of his tricks for later. He does this on both the micro and macro levels. In any given game, there’s a certain point in the fourth quarter where Paul flips a switch and starts taking things to a whole other level. It’s always been one of the most fascinating things about watching him play.
On a larger-scale, though, Paul has also been known to save a little for the end of the season and for the postseason. Early in his career he would play all 82 games like they were his last, but then would be gassed when the playoffs rolled around. Nowadays, he has learned how to pace himself so that he is able to have enough left in the tank to carry his team when it matters.
Now is when it matters for the Clippers.
In the race that they are in with the Grizzlies and the Nuggets, the Clippers could end up with the third-seed and have home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs or could drop in the standings and have to play the first two games of their postseason in Denver or Memphis, both of which are places that aren’t easy to play in.
The Clippers need Paul to hit that extra gear right now and make sure that they are playing in the Staples Center for the first two games of the first round; that would make their lives easier and their chances much better. Everyone, including Paul, knows that Paul is capable of carrying the Clippers to where they need to be, it’s just a matter of when he’s going to do it. However, now seems like the perfect time to, once again, flip that switch.