x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers not quite ready to cut it with elite teams

With a mix of young talent and veteran leadership, the Los Angeles Clippers have all the makings to become one of the NBA's top teams but they may still be a year away.

Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers, right, defends against Oklahoma City Thunder's Russell Westbrook in the first half during their game on Sunday. The Thunder won to complete their three-game season sweep of the Clippers. Michael Nelson / EPA
Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers, right, defends against Oklahoma City Thunder's Russell Westbrook in the first half during their game on Sunday. The Thunder won to complete their three-game season sweep of the Clippers. Michael Nelson / EPA

So much to admire. The cool magic of Chris Paul. The astonishing dunks of Blake Griffin. The veteran poise of Chauncey Billups, Grant Hill and Lamar Odom.

The LA Clippers have been a great NBA story this season, a historically inept franchise joining the league's elite and overshadowing their arena rivals, the Lakers.

It may be time, however, to pause in heaping praise on the new Clippers and recognise that more remains to be done.

The Clippers lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder 108-104 at home, on Sunday, and certainly there is no shame in that.

Yet despite having the fourth-best record in the NBA, despite having beaten the San Antonio Spurs twice and the Miami Heat once before the season was even a month old, there is reason to believe the Clippers are not quite yet ready for the NBA's main stage.

The victory on Sunday gave the Thunder a 3-0 season sweep of the Clippers. Since November, the Clippers are an aggregate 0-5 against the Thunder, Spurs and Heat.

At the season's midpoint, the Clippers owned the best record in the NBA. Since then, the gap between them and the Big Three has widened. And two of those teams are in the West, meaning the Clippers may not survive the second round of the play-offs.

They still struggle with their half-court game and do not rebound well. They seem almost unwilling to grasp what they have become. Thus, their time seems at least another year away.

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