Two days ago, the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Los Angeles Clippers soundly. In any other era of NBA basketball, no one would raise an eyebrow. Yet this year, the outcome of that game was a shock to many people. Some fans don’t believe in statement wins. Even if they don’t think there has ever been a statement win, it’s hard to deny that the pounding of the Clippers said an awful lot.
However, the win didn’t say everything. I don’t expect the Lakers to be playoff threats, even with Kobe Bryant back in the lineup. The Clippers are set for one of their better seasons possibly ever. Still, the notion that they have been magically made into a team destined for the Finals after a quiet offseason all because of Doc Rivers showing up is a bit confusing.
I understand Rivers is a top-five coach, but his knack for making defense a focal point of his teams is going to be slightly awkward with a Clippers team built to score. DeAndre Jordan is a great player, but sorely overrated on the defensive end of the floor, and Blake Griffin tends not to do well when faced with a defensively or fundamentally sound opponent. Los Angeles’ success will depend on matchups. 99 percent of the time, Chris Paul is playing better than who he is guarding. Better still, he’ll be able to lock him down pretty effectively too. Matt Barnes has a solid defensive game, but does anyone else? Keep in mind that Rivers just left a team with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, two of the best defenders in the league.
My point is simple: Rivers is at his finest when he has solid defensive players. Just like before, the Clips will get as far as Griffin and Jordan take them. With Vinny Del Negro, that wasn’t very far. With Rivers, the sky is the limit. Regardless, The team (Formally known as Lob City) is going to have to improve defensively. If they can do that, there won’t be many more statement losses in the near future.