by Jordan Adams - 05/02/2006
As the clock ticked down to its final seconds, you could begin to hear a distinct chant being uttered by the Staples Center fans. "Bring on Kobe" were the verbal sentiments shared by this joyous crowd.
The Clippers fairytale first round series concluded Monday night with a convincing 101-83 victory over the befuddled Denver Nuggets. It wasn't since 1976 that this franchise witnessed similar post-season success. However, this team had yet to be named the Los Angeles Clippers. Jack Ramsey was the head coach and they were the Buffalo Braves.
For the past couple of decades they have been dubbed as LA's other team, and presumably so, because success was as rare as summer snow in Cali.
Cuttino Mobley talking after the series victory about what it was like playing against the Clippers when they were dubbed the worst franchise in sports.
"I definitely laughed at them," Mobley joked. "And I used to stay out late the night before we played them."
The talk of the 2006 NBA season centered on many of the top teams. While the Clippers had early success, no one wanted to enter them into a serious contending discussion. San Antonio was the overall favorite in the West over the course of the regular season and looked to repeat as champs. Steve Nash and his ability to carry his new-look Suns without superstar Amare Stoudemire brought about constant praise and a soon to be MVP. Pat Riley's return to the bench to coach a Heat team with a surplus of talent opened talks of nothing but a championship being acceptable.
Well. seven months later, the hype has faded and the second season is underway. The Spurs are the No. 1 seed in the West, but Sacramento's play has them two wins from a historical playoff upset. Nash's MVP may be a lock, but so may his team's chances of being bounced easily by the seventh seed Lakers. And it is the disgruntled Heat who are getting a lesson in team basketball by the Baby Bulls who have all the momentum to come away with the series.
It is May 2 and the Los Angeles Clippers are no longer the topic of everyone's personal mockery. They are the first team to advance to the second round of the NBA Playoffs and are anything but a fluke.
GM Elgin Baylor designed this team beautifully along with impressive guidance from head coach Mike Dunleavy.
Look no further than the veteran leadership from Sam Cassell, Cuttino Mobley and Elton Brand. Their play has set the table for younger players such Corey Maggette, Chris Kaman and Shaun Livingston to raise their level of play.
They have the depth at every position to compete in the later playoff rounds and are backed 100 percent by the city of Los Angeles, who no longer consider the Lakers as the only meaningful basketball franchise in town.
If you look back to the Clippers' first round games with Denver, they really never were challenged. Game one's victory, although only a two-point margin of victory, had Los Angeles controlling the game by double-digits throughout most of the night.
After that narrow win, the Clippers won their next three games of the series by 11, 14, and 18 points, respectively.
With the Hallway Series in vision, the Lakers are one win away and have the chance to make this second round match-up a reality.
There are certain storylines that would make for an intriguing seven game series. Ex-Clipper Lamar Odom now starts for the Lakers and experienced first hand the pitiful struggles of past Clipper play.
On the other hand, remember that Kobe Bryant seriously flirted with the thought of joining the Clippers during his 2004 free agency summer. He opted to stay with his Lakers team rather than ignite scrutiny for joining a franchise struggling to build a winner at the time.
If this series does happen, this set of games would be second to none for this year's playoffs ratings. Throw the six and seven seeds out the window. They would mean nothing in the series.
While the Clippers completely dismantled the Nuggets, the Lakers having been playing arguably the best ball in the playoffs. Who would be labeled favorite? Would it be the Clippers or Lakers faithful dictating home-court advantage? Forget road games and back-to-back travel days to another venue. The city of Los Angeles would be host to one of the most anticipated playoff series in some time.
The regular season saw these two teams split the four games they played in the Staples Center. The difference between the total scores of the four games was five points. Expect nothing less.