ORLANDO, Fla. — Many pundits expect the Lakers to miss the playoffs this year, and yet they defeated the Clippers on opening night. Many of the naysayers expect Orlando to be back in the lottery again next summer, and yet the Magic defeated the Clippers on Wednesday night.
Sure, it’s a small sample size after just five games, but it really does look as if the Clippers are playing to the level of their competition.
And that’s not a good sign for a team that has designs on winning an NBA championship this season.
“We could be, yeah,” Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said. “Yeah, that could happen. And we’ll grow out of that. That’s not a concern, though. We’ve proven that so far, but I think we’ll grow. If that is something, I think we’ll be fine with that.”
The Clippers beat both the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets, two of the better NBA teams. The Clippers also played hard in beating the Sacramento Kings.
But losing to the Lakers and the Magic, which had the worst record in the NBA last season at 20-62, makes it seem as if the Clippers don’t play hard all the time.
“You’d like to think not, but it kind of shows that,” the Clippers’ Blake Griffin said. “You can’t take anybody lightly. You can’t come out and think we’re going to take care of a team just by showing up. That’s not how it works. We’ve got to do a better job getting up for the game we’re not supposed to ‘so call’ get up for.”
The Clippers are 3-2 and face two-time NBA champion Miami Heat on Thursday night.
The Clippers expect to give a better effort.
“It’s Game 5,” Chris Paul said. “Luckily we’ve got like 77 left to get better at it. But we’re not going to win games unless our defense gets better. We can’t rely on 100-something points every night. Our defense has to kick in at some point. Or, either we’re going to lose or we’re going to be in dogfights every night.”
Barnes out with injury
Clippers forward Matt Barnes didn’t play against the Orlando Magic because of a bruised right thigh and probably won’t play against the Heat.
“If something amazing happens tonight, maybe,” he said. “But probably not.”