Breaking Down Clippers Eight-Game Schedule

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The NBA’s return is taking shape as we speak. Although originally planned for July 31st, it has been reported that games could start being played a day earlier on July 30th. The plan is still to have 22 teams head to Orlando, including all 16 teams currently in the playoff race and the six teams with a fighting chance at the 8 seed in each conference. As the 2-seed, this format bodes about as well as any to for the Clippers. Everyone will play a condensed regular season 8-game schedule to give everyone a chance at either cracking the playoff race or moving up to a better seed. A play-in series will be implemented if the 9-seed is within four games of the 8-seed. Otherwise the top eight in each conference will be locked into postseason format per usual.

Current Standings

The Clippers still sit as the 2 seed, 1.5 games ahead of the Nuggets and 5.5 games behind the Lakers. It’s unrealistic to think they will be able to attain the top seed, but it’s still very possible for them to slip to three. Of course, this doesn’t affect any home-court issues considering every team will be playing on a neutral site, but it does affect matchups. Slipping from second to third changes the team’s first round matchup from the Mavericks to the Rockets. Although this would be quite a dramatic matchup, it’s not one that Clippers fans should be hoping for given the teams’ history. This makes the last eight-game stretch of the regular season important for the Clippers to do well in.

In these unprecedented times, on a neutral court, and without any fans, we have no idea how any team will react. Instead of trying to decipher how this unusual situation will impact every team, we’re going to look at the head-to-head matchups, strengths and weaknesses, etc. to predict how this final stretch will turn of for the Clippers.

Game 1 | Clippers vs Brooklyn Nets

The game against Brooklyn was set to be the first matchup of the season between the two teams. This means we have little to nothing to go on when it comes to head-to-head matchups. Before the regular season was cut short, the Clippers were averaging over 116 PPG while holding opponents to under 110. The Nets season average was just under 111 including several games with All Star PG, Kyrie Irving, available for action. In fact, on average they allowed their opponent to score upwards of 111 PPG, meaning they averaged losing. With both Irving and Kevin Durant missing the remainder of the season due to injury, I don’t foresee the Nets having the firepower to overcome the potent Los Angeles attack on either end of the court.

With the lack of star power offensively, and lack of perimeter defenders to contain the Clippers’ wings like Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Lou Williams, and Marcus Morris, I don’t see this game being much of a contest. The Clippers were clicking on all cylinders before the break. If they continue the trend in any capacity, this one shouldn’t be in question.

Final Score Prediction

Clippers 120 – 103 Nets

Game 2 | Clippers vs New Orleans Pelicans

In three games against the Pelicans this season, the Clippers averaged 131.3 PPG, 25.7 APG, and upwards of 50% shooting. They won two of the three games in the series, one home and one away. The win in Staples Center came in a blowout where the Clippers outscored the Pels by 25 points. On paper, this matchup heavily favors the Clippers. However, there’s one stipulation to be considered in this head-to-head.

Kawhi and company have yet to face off against rookie sensation Zion Williamson. The last matchup between these two teams came on January 18th, less than a week before Zion made his NBA debut. Does the addition of the future Superstar impact this game? Absolutely. Does it push the Pelicans over the top in this matchup? My guess is no. This game will be close, and by no means an automatic win from either side. However I believe the Clippers will still pull this one out after a tune-up win over the Nets. New Orleans will be coming into their third game since returning to action after taking on the Kings and Jazz, too teams on a similar level as the Pelicans.

Final Score Prediction

Clippers 128 – 121 Pelicans

Game 3 | Clippers vs Dallas Mavericks

Perhaps the most likely first round matchup for the Clippers, they will get one more chance against Dallas before the postseason begins. The Mavericks came to town twice during the regular season, losing both games to the Clippers on their home court. Luka Doncic and company were able to hold LA under their season average of 116 points in both games, something not a lot of other teams could accomplish. This series is likely to be competitive, and this final head-to-head match will likely be no different.

After pulling out victories in their first two extended regular season games, the Clippers might be gaining a sense of complacency. The biggest game of the extended schedule is up next against Denver, making it easy to overlook this third game. If the guys are going to lose any of their remaining eight games, I expect it to be this one. A Mavericks win will make for an even more competitive and interesting first round matchup between the two teams.

Final Score Prediction

Clippers 108 – 118 Mavericks

Game 4 | Clippers vs Denver Nuggets

Next comes the most important game of the Clippers’ remaining schedule. The Nuggets currently sit less than two games behind LAC with a legitimate shot at catching up. For matchup purposes, it’s in the Clippers’ best interested to stay ahead of Denver. This game could prove to be the deciding factor in who ultimately takes the 2-seed.

In their first meeting of the season, Denver pulled out a 10 point victory at home. They out-rebounded, out-assisted, and out-shot the Clippers on all fronts. It was a solid, well rounded victory in which the Clippers were without Paul George or Marcus Morris since it was well before the trade deadline.

In the next matchup, with the Clippers at full strength, they unleashed perhaps their best team performance of the season. They blew out Denver by 29 points! Maybe even more impressive, they finished with 16 more assists than Denver had. The Clippers outshot the Nuggets by 9% from the field and 10% from behind the 3PT line. It was the definition of peak performance, a blowout, as some might say, a good ole-fashioned butt-whooping. I expect to see more of the same from the Clippers in this final matchup between the two teams before postseason.

Final Score Prediction

Clippers 124 – 109 Nuggets

Game 5 | Clippers vs Phoenix Suns

In the first meeting between these team, Phoenix handed LAC their first loss of the season, 130-122. The next time they met in December, the Clippers put up yet another blowout victory beating the Suns by 21 points. Phoenix had cooled off from their tremendous start and LAC was finally starting to approach a healthy roster. Their next meeting in February ended in similar fashion with the Clippers adding another double-digit victory to their resume. Kelly Oubre Jr. and George had a must-see battle in their previous matchups, adding a slight dramatic twist to this final meeting.

Despite letting one slip early in the season, I don’t foresee the Clippers losing another game to the Suns. They haven’t allowed Phoenix to score more than 99 points in the final too matchups. The Suns have an incredibly high ceiling, but it’s not their time yet.

Final Score Prediction

Clippers 114 – 97 Suns

Game 6 | Clippers vs Brooklyn Nets

Much similar to the first game of this stretch, we have little to go on in this matchup. The Nets will still be without Kyrie or KD and the Clippers should be coming off of back to back resounding victories. I predict by this point the standings will be getting closer to set and teams will start playing their stars on a more limited schedule, if not sitting some altogether. The Clippers without one of their top players are a far better team than the Nets without their injured duo and limited playing time for their other focal points. If the standings are almost set, I expect this to be a blow out. If the Nets are still playing at full strength, it could become competitive, but I’m not sold on their starless lineup.

Final Score Prediction

Clippers 132 – 111 Nets

Game 7 | Clippers vs Indiana Pacers

The Pacers were one of the bigger surprises this season. With All-Star Victor Oladipo having more time to recover from injury, this team is liable to keep getting deadlier. The Clippers are built to have lethal small-ball lineups with players like Montrezl Harrell, Marcus Morris Sr., and JaMychal Green playing a good portion of their minutes at the five. Indiana could be defined as the polar opposite. Boasting two fringe All Star big men in Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner makes them a matchup nightmare for smaller teams. LAC aren’t often outmatched in the paint, but the potential is there.

In their lone meeting this season, the Clippers were able to win by double-digits. They also managed to win the battle on the boards by two rebounds over the bigger Pacers. I expect the Clippers to be in full playoff mode by this game, but not in a good way. With only one game left before the post season, I believe the Clippers will be quick to overlook the game against Indiana. Oversized and out-focused, the Clippers drop their second game of the extended schedule.

Final Score Prediction

Clippers 99 – 110 Pacers

Game 8 | Clippers vs Oklahoma City Thunder

Finally, the Los Angeles Clippers will close out their season against the Oklahoma City Clippers Thunder. The dynamic between these two teams is always fun to watch. Chris Paul, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and Danilo Gallinari will be locked and loaded, ready to take down their former team. The Clippers lead the season series 2-1, but OKC is always a dangerous team to go up against. I imagine that by now, coming off of their second less, Doc will have the guys moving towards playoff basketball.

In their final tune-up game before the postseason, the Clippers will be focused and ready to make a championship caliber run. CP3 and Oklahoma City will make it competitive, but the Clippers’ Closers will pull this one out in a final momentum-builder before the postseason.

Final Score Prediction

Clippers 126 – 122 Thunder

Clippers Playoffs

The Clippers finish this extended schedule with a record of 6-2, pushing their overall win percentage to .694. This would leave them firmly in the 2-seed between the Lakers and the Nuggets. The current 7-seed, and first round matchup for the Clippers, would be the Mavericks. If these predictions hold true, the Mavs would hand the Clippers their first loss of the extended schedule. A new focus and renewed determination from LAC would end this series in short order, likely four or five games. Other possible first round matchups include the Rockets, Thunder, or even the Jazz or Grizzlies if all goes right (or wrong depending on how you look at it).

Preferred First Round

My preference would be to maintain the matchup against Dallas. Luka Doncic is an incredible player and will likely be a top ten player in the league for years to come. However, if any team is built to defend a tall playmaker it’s the Clippers. George, Leonard, Patrick Beverley, and even Reggie Jackson and Marcus Morris are all capable defenders with varying amounts size and athleticism. Past Doncic, the Mavericks aren’t built to be a true championship juggernaut just yet. Maybe someday soon, but for now I like the Clippers chances against this young team.

Dangerous First Round

Perhaps the matchup I would be most concerned about is Houston. I believe the Clippers would still handle this matchup in less than seven games. However, I’m not as confident as I would be in the other matchups. Houston and James Harden always give teams struggle, especially the Clippers. Not to mention the Russell Westbrook – Patrick Beverley rivalry would be reborn and rekindled. This would be a fun series to watch without a doubt, but it would be a series where anything could happen. That uncertainty and level of offensive firepower from Houston would make this series dangerous for the Clippers.

We won’t dive much deeper into other potential matchups or how far the Clippers could go until the postseason picture starts to become clearer.

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