By Jeffrey Newholm
Those who have played the original Super Mario Brothers know that, despite its simplicity, it’s a rather difficult game. Many feel accomplished to defeat Bowser and claim the castle. Once there, to be cruel, a toad tells the player, “thanks, Mario! But the princess is in another castle!” D’oh! All that hard work for nothing. But just a game, right? Unfortunately, as the LA Clippers may discover, basketball works the same way. After finally escaping the shadow of the 16 title Lakers (the Clippers have never even made the conference finals), the other LA is 48-34 and in the playoffs. The opponent? Golden State and their legion of Koopa King assassins.
First, it would help to consider how big the Laker bully was. Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabar dominated the ’80s. Lakers owner Jerry Buss toyed with the Clippers to such an extent that he even used a coin flip when discussing a trade with Clippers owner Donald Sterling. The situation remained the same for the Lakers in the 2000s. Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal helped the Lakers win five more titles. The Clippers won: nothing. But finally, the Clippers’ fortunes seemed to reverse.
Behind Chris Paul and a brilliant trade for coach Doc Rivers, the Clippers were a genuine contender earlier this decade. Sterling threatened to ruin the franchise with racist comments but thankfully was banned for life by commissioner Adam Silver. Once Sterling’s former team was freed from his tyranny, it was soon was 13 minutes away from the long-awaited West Finals. But then, tragedy.
Thankfully for the Clippers, the Lakers fared even worse. The team hasn’t made the playoffs since 2013, and even Lebron was no help. And this season, despite having no All-Stars, LA Jr. finished 48-34! But there are several problems. First, an eight seed as only won five times in the first round. Second, the one seed they’re battling is historically even better in the playoffs. Third: it’s Golden State. No need to say more.
LA is the biggest playoff underdog since 1988 at 100-1. A gambler would have to wager $50,000 on a Warriors win to earn just $100. Stats wizard site FiveThirtyEight gives LA a less than 1% chance to win the series. The task seems impossible. And maybe it is, as the Warriors don’t see the least concerned.
Round 1 ready 🔒 pic.twitter.com/NXIAXexH4T
— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) April 12, 2019
But there’s a dignity in trying one’s best even with little hope. Success comes not from amazing feats but attention to detail and continuous improvement. LA certainly has the correct mentality of stoic focus.
Business trip to the Bay. pic.twitter.com/yQAbYg3BeE
— LA Clippers (@LAClippers) April 12, 2019
So LA is in a no-lose situation. Perhaps they pass the sleepy Warriors and steal the series and millions from foolish Oakland wagers. But if not, they can take a deep breath, put another coin in the machine, and once more jump towards the elusive West Finals castle.