Two possible Western Conference playoff opponents are on the Clippers’ agenda this week: the Phoenix Suns on Monday and the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday. Both are home games and both have been tough matchups so far this season. The Clippers are 1-1 vs. the Suns and 1-2 vs. the Warriors. There’s also a road game Friday night at Utah.
The week behind
The Clippers were a perfect 3-0 and extended their winning streak to a season-high seven games. They won a tough road game at Phoenix, routed the Lakers by 48 points and then suffered a mild letdown before beating the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday night. They also improved their Staples Center record to 26-5.
One game separates the Nos. 3, 4 and 5 teams in the conference, with the Clippers currently percentage points behind the third-seeded Houston Rockets. They have a one-game lead over the No. 4 Trail Blazers, although they’re even in the loss column. The Clips have one game left against the Rockets but hold the tiebreaker edge if they should finish with the same records.
Forward Matt Barnes is an emotional, volatile player, but his play since becoming a starter has been truly impressive. Not only has he been a calming influence with the starting unit, his offensive production has been reliable and consistent. Barnes has shot 50 percent or better in each of his past seven consecutive games and has scored in double figures in eight games in a row, including 28 last week against the Suns.
Letdowns are common, especially after big wins like their rout over the Lakers two nights earlier, but the Clippers need to avoid games like the one they had Saturday against the Hawks. They shot the ball well (53 percent), but they made 18 turnovers, many of them unforced. As the Clippers found out last season in a first-round playoff loss to Memphis, one defeat can snowball into a series loss. Consistency down the stretch will be important.
Doc Rivers shows patience with Danny Granger READ MORE
Player to watch
Forward Danny Granger is slowly getting his legs, playing almost 18 minutes against the Lakers and close to 15 against the Hawks. Just as important, he’s gaining more and more confidence in his shot. He was 3 for 9 against the Lakers and 3 for 7 against the Hawks, but his confidence is evident. Look for him to play a significant role in the final six weeks of the regular season.
Stat of the week
Pick any random stat against the Lakers and it would fit nicely in this category. Perhaps most impressive in their 142-94 win was the fact the Clippers scored 44 points in the second quarter, more than the Lakers scored in the entire first half (40).
"I was really happy with the win, because you could see it early – we didn’t have it, and that happens. I say it all the time, it’s a human game." — coach Doc Rivers, after the Clippers held on for a 109-108 win over Atlanta, which has lost 10 in a row on the road