Only two games remain for the Clippers: Tuesday night at Staples Center against the Denver Nuggets and Wednesday night on the road at Portland. The Nuggets are out of the playoffs but have won the past two games against L.A., and the Blazers are the fifth seed in the Western Conference. Both are good pre-playoff tests for the Clippers.
The week behind
The Clippers lost their shot to take over the No. 2 seed when they were beaten by the Oklahoma City Thunder last Wednesday 107-101. They followed it up with a ho-hum win over the Sacramento Kings on Saturday. While they had an opportunity to beat the Thunder with a late rally, the Clippers still fell behind by 15 points in the fourth quarter, something they can’t afford to let happen in the playoffs.
Jamal Crawford returns; adds extra boost to Clippers
At 56-24, the Clippers have matched last season’s franchise record for wins with two games left. Their 33-7 home record is also a franchise record. They locked up the No. 3 seed in the conference playoffs last week, putting them in position to play the Golden State Warriors in the first round.
A positive sign was the return of guard Jamal Crawford, who played Saturday and scored 10 points off the bench after sitting out five games with a chronic strained left hamstring. It was Crawford’s third attempt to return from the injury, but for the first time he said he felt more comfortable. His ability to create shots and score from any spot on the floor is important to the Clippers’ postseason future.
Collectively, the Clippers have failed to come out with energy in recent games, falling behind early and having to play catch-up to win. They did it again in their loss to the Thunder, making it clear they will have to start games with fire and take charge early when the playoffs begin. Assuming their opponent is Golden State, a slow start could doom them, especially on the road.
Player to watch
Remember Danny Granger? He hasn’t played since March 27 because of a strained left hamstring and isn’t likely to suit up in either of the Clippers’ final two regular-season games. Coach Doc Rivers said there’s no timetable for Granger’s return, but if he doesn’t come back until the playoffs, his conditioning will likely limit his playing time. He’s a potent scorer and strong presence, but it’s doubtful he’ll play a major role in the first round and perhaps beyond.
Center DeAndre Jordan continues to make a push for NBA Defensive Player of the Year honors. While his free-throw shooting remains horrendous, Jordan is a stopper in the middle, leading the league in rebounding (13.7 per game) and ranking third in blocked shots (2.51). In the win over the Kings, he made a good case for his candidacy: 21 points, 9 rebounds and 7 blocks.
"I think we’re in a good position, but we still have some things to work on. We’ve been preparing for this the whole year. We’re excited for it." — Clippers forward Blake Griffin on the upcoming playoffs