Los Angeles Clippers Win Playoff Series

Written by: Kidist Amanuel

The Los Angeles Clippers advance to the Western Conference semifinals after beating the Memphis Grizzlies on May 13, 2012 in game 7 of their first round series.

Just for the third time in the 41 years history of the franchise, the Clippers have won a National Basketball Association (NBA) playoff series. In this best of seven series, the Clippers led the series 3-1, but the Grizzlies hold off elimination twice to tie the series 3-3. Game 7 was a tough, physical game, but the Clippers defeated the Grizzlies on their home court to advance to the second round of playoffs and to faceoff the San Antonio Spurs.

Los Angeles Clippers Advance To Western Conference Semifinals

Los Angeles Clippers Advance To Western Conference Semifinals

This series had it fair share of dramatic moments. It ended up being one of the more interesting first round series this year. The first game featured one of the greatest comeback victories in league history. Down by 27 in the second half and 24 points with eight minutes left in the game, the Clippers put together an incredible 26-1 run to steal game one and thus home court advantage from the Grizzlies. The Clipper lost game two and the series was tied 1-1 when the teams went to Los Angeles for game three and four.  Similar to game two, game three was a closely contested game and the Clippers won the game by one point. The Clippers then went on to win game four of the series and get a commanding 3-1 lead, pushing the Grizzlies to the brink of elimination. However, the Grizzlies bounced back and got right back in the series with wins in game five and six by playing their brand of bruising style of basketball. Game seven, which was played in front of the Grizzlies home crowd, was another closely contested game, but the Clippers held on to win the game and thus advance to the next round of the playoffs.

The strong game of point guard Chris Paul during the series is one of the reasons the Clippers are advancing right now. The addition of Chris Paul during the 2011 off-season revitalized and automatically made the Clippers a championship contender team for the next few years. The addition of Chauncey Billups and Mo Williams has also given the team one of the best backcourts in the league. With star power forward Blake Griffin already on the roster, it was no surprise that the Clippers made the playoffs this 2012 season, even if many did not expect them to advance to the second round of the playoffs.

Defending Champs Dallas Mavericks Eliminated in First Round

Written by: Kidist Amanuel

The NBA defending champions, the Dallas Mavericks, have been eliminated from the first round of the 2012 playoffs after being swept by Oklahoma City Thunder in four games.

The number two ranked Oklahoma City Thunder, one of the best teams in the league throughout the season, were the clear favorites against the number seven ranked Dallas Mavericks when the series started. The veteran Mavs started the best of seven series by playing the first two games on the road. The Mavs lost these two games by a total of four points. They lost the first game on a heartbreaking game-winning shot at the buzzer by Kevin Durant, NBA’s leading scorer. Similar to the first game, the Mavs led in the final minutes of the second game, but once again could not close it out with a win. While the two games in Oklahoma City could have gone either way, game three of the series was a different story. Back in their home turf, the Mavs were expected to bounce back and win the two games at home. Unfortunately, game was not a close game. The Thunder led throughout the game and it was a rout from start to finish. The Mavs put on a valiant effort in game four, but behind the great game of James Harden, 2012 sixth man of the year, the Thunder won the game and clinched the series, effectively sweeping the Mavs.

Dallas Mavs Eliminated in First Round

Dallas Mavericks lose to OKC Thunder in first round of 2012 NBA playoffs

Just a little less than a year ago, the Dallas Mavericks hoisted the first championship trophy in the club’s history. So what happened? How did the Mavericks become just the second team in NBA history to be swept out of the playoffs the year after they win the championship? The roster changes that took place during the off season played a major role.  The Mavericks lost important role players that helped them during the championship run. Defensive and emotional anchor, center Tyson Chandler, was traded to the New York Knicks. Back-up point guard Jose Barea, who played a major role in numerous games, was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Mavericks traded these two players and a few others to open up cap space and prepare for 2012 free agency, showing that their main priority for the season was acquiring top free agents and build for the future rather than defend their championship. Will this pay off? We will have to wait and see in the 2012 off season.

Denver Poses Threat for Lakers in Western Conference Playoffs

With the help of a 39 point effort from Chauncey Billups, the Denver Nuggets put away the Los Angeles Lakers despite the absence of Carmelo Anthony in a convincing 126-113 road victory at the Staples Center on February 5.

If the Lakers’ 1-3 record in their four regular season matchups against the Denver Nuggets is any indication, the Lakers—heavy favorites to win the top seed in the NBA Western Conference and to make their third consecutive NBA Finals appearance—will face tougher competition in this year’s Western Conference playoffs than in the previous two seasons.

After pulling away for a nine-point victory with a fourth quarter momentum burst in Game 5 at the Staples Center in the 2009 Western Conference Finals to take a 3-2 lead in what had been a tightly contested series, the Los Angeles Lakers slammed the door on the Nuggets’ playoff hopes with a convincing 119-92 road thumping on Denver’s home court in Game 6.  The Lakers’ intent to end the series that night was made very clear as they executed their game as effectively as they had all season at both ends of the court; the Nuggets team—which had shown an undaunted competitive edge that manifested their belief that they stood a chance in the series—came out flat and appeared to lack the same level of confidence they had shown in the first five games of the series.

Although the Lakers have won the only matchup in which both team rosters were at full strength in the 2009-2010 season and still retain a 3.5 game lead in the top seed in the Western Conference standings, the ease with which Denver took two of their three regular season victories against the Lakers may be cause for concern—particularly that in their 126-113 victory without the services of Carmelo Anthony against a full-strength Lakers team.  Whether it was due to the lack of focus which seems to be characteristic of the Lakers during many regular season games in their wait until the playoffs—or due to the adjustment of the team chemistry complicated by frequent injuries to key components of the rotation—the Lakers showed the same flat lack of intensity shown by Denver in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals one year ago.

Whether the confidence shown by Denver throughout the regular season in their ability to match up with the Lakers will carry over into an upset in a potential Western Conference Finals rematch remains to be seen.  The Lakers—particularly in their seasons as defending champions—have been known to show an occasional lack of intensity during the regular season before ratcheting up their play to a level at which they appear to be a completely different team; the 2001 Los Angeles Lakers 15-1 playoff and Finals run serving as a strong reminder.