LOS ANGELES — The Clippers are bored, and it’s understandable.
Regardless of the outcomes of their final two games, they are locked into the three seed. More important, they are nursing injuries to a few key players, and with the bloodbath that is the Western Conference playoffs looming, objective No. 1 is getting to the postseason in one piece.
Games against lottery teams are trivial at this point. Unless, of course, that lottery team is the pesky Kings, who instigate trouble and refuse to back down from the Clips. Every contest between the two has gone down to the wire this season, with Sacramento’s size and offensive firepower giving Los Angeles’ defense fits.
"Sacramento played us well every game, really," coach Doc Rivers said following the Clips’ 117-101 victory Saturday afternoon. "We won them all, but they were semi-close. A couple of them we were down. They’re a big team. They play us well."
Ultimately, the Clippers were too talented for the Kings to keep up. When they turned up their defensive intensity in the final frame, a close game turned into a blowout. Boredom has to be setting in, right?
"Yeah, I would say (it’s) human nature, a little of that has to be true. It’s natural," Rivers said.
Just don’t tell that to Chris Paul. There are two games left — Tuesday vs. Denver and Wednesday in Portland — before the playoffs start next weekend, and Paul wants L.A. to iron out some kinks in their play.
"We’re still playing for something," Paul said. "You always play to win. It’s always a competition…We can keep building confidence on defense, work on execution offensively, and just keep trying to stay in a rhythm."
Here are five takeaways from today’s action:
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Rest or rust?
The Clippers have played three games in the last nine days, which would be considered much-needed rest under normal circumstances. But Doc Rivers feels it might have worked against them. "I don’t understand the rest if you don’t need it," Rivers said. "You don’t want to lose your rhythm." L.A. dealt with stretches of defensive inattention throughout the game, leading to foul trouble (three Clippers had four or more fouls) and missed defensive rebounds (the Kings had 12 offensive rebounds).
The magic number
It sounds intuitive, but the Clippers are essentially unbeatable when they shoot well from behind the arc. After today’s win, they are now 33-1 when they make nine or more 3-pointers. While that might sound like an arbitrary benchmark, that’s the number of 3s that elite shooting teams — i.e. the Rockets, Warriors and Blazers — average per game. L.A. has been an average 3-point shooting at best this season, but if they can find any semblance of consistent shooting, their offense will reach another level.
#Clippers won their 56th game of the season, tying the franchise record set in 2012-13. They have two games left to surpass it.
This game would have been over 20 minutes earlier if not for the Kings resorting to intentionally fouling Jordan and turning the game into a slog…in the second quarter. Not only did the plan backfire — their deficit grew from seven points to nine — but it also motivated the Clips heading into halftime. The game featured 69 combined free throw attempts, and every player that played more than one minute had at least one foul. It’s time for opponents to accept that intentionally fouling Jordan doesn’t work.
Letting his game do the talking
The last time these two teams faced off in late November, DeMarcus Cousins pushed J.J. Redick while he was in the air, causing him to fall awkwardly on his wrist and back. The injury changed both the Clippers’ and Redick’s season, which was shaping up to be career year. Redick exacted revenge Saturday by scoring 13 points and drawing an ejection on rookie Ben McLemore, who was on fire at the time and picked up his second technical after pushing Redick in the chest following a foul call.
A preview of things to come?
Golden State. Memphis. Sacramento. What do all these teams have in common? They don’t like the Clippers. DeMarcus Cousins has publicly voiced his displeasure with Chris Paul, even saying he’s his main rival in the league. To no surprise, there were several heated moments, with McLemore’s two technicals at the forefront. As an inevitable playoff date with the Warriors nears, today’s game offered insight into a physical, combative seven-game series might look like. It’s going to be fun.