Clippers Center Serge Ibaka had some motivational words for his teammates as LA enters the second half of the regular season, with the playoffs just around the corner.

The NBA playoffs are set to begin on May 22nd, just over two months away. As it stands now, the Clippers are currently the fourth seed in the Western Conference, less than a percentage point behind the Los Angeles Lakers. It is unclear how much the Clippers value homecourt advantage, particularly in a season where fan attendance is still such a question mark. However, it sounds as though Ibaka is referring less so to wins, and more so to good habits.

Obviously, the little details can vary from night to night, and from opponent to opponent. But there is no denying that the most crucial aspect that the Clippers must improve on is their defense. LA currently ranks 14th in the league in defensive rating, which is not going to cut it if the Clippers want to win a championship. Other than the 2017-18 Warriors (who, let’s be honest, were a cheat code), no NBA champion has ranked outside of the top 10 in defensive rating since the 2000-01 Los Angeles Lakers (also a cheat code).

Ibaka is at the center of the Clippers’ defensive identity. If LA hopes to dominate in the postseason, Ibaka will have to be an elite rim protector and a decent switch defender. He’ll also potentially have to deal with tough matchups like Anthony Davis, Rudy Gobert and Nikola Jokic.

If Ibaka can make these All-Stars work for their points and stretch them out to the three-point line on the other end, it’ll increase the Clippers’ chances immensely. He’s by no means the end-all be-all for LA, but every piece of the puzzle matters.

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