Clips look to secure home-court advantage
Following a key victory in the fight for home-court advantage, the Los Angeles Clippers control their own destiny in the final week of the regular season.
The Portland Trail Blazers are simply trying to end one of the longest losing streaks in franchise history.
The Clippers hope to take another step toward securing home-court advantage in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs when they host the sinking Blazers on Tuesday night.
Los Angeles (54-26) gained an edge in its potential first-round matchup with Memphis as Chris Paul hit a free throw with 18.3 seconds left to earn a 91-87 road win Saturday.
DeAndre Jordan finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds for the Clippers, winners of five in a row.
Fourth-seeded Los Angeles took three of four from the fifth-place Grizzlies and would own home-court advantage should they finish with the same record. The Clippers are also within striking distance of third-seeded Denver with two games remaining.
“Before this, we had certain things that had to happen in order for us to move up,” Paul said. “Now, if we want home court, we control it.”
The Clippers, a franchise-best 31-9 at home, will need win for the third time in four meetings with the Blazers (33-47).
Playing without injured starters LaMarcus Aldridge, Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum, Portland started four rookies and dropped its 11th straight Sunday, 118-109 at Denver.
With two games left, Portland will try to avoid matching a team-worst 13-game skid set in 1971-72.
The Blazers, who have lost by an average of 14.4 points during their slide, could be short-handed again in this contest with all three starters expected to be game-time decisions.
Damian Lillard helped to fill the offensive void Sunday with 30 points, but the rookie point guard also committed a season-high eight turnovers.
“It was tough because of how they guarded me,” Lillard said. “Without having any other starters out there, they paid a lot more attention to me.”
Lillard had 38 points in a 113-106 loss to the Lakers on Wednesday.
Lillard and Batum each scored 20 and Batum notched a triple-double in a 101-100 home win over the Clippers on Jan. 26.
Paul missed that meeting – and a 96-83 home win over Portland the following night – because of a bruised right kneecap.
Blake Griffin, who had 12 points and nine rebounds while shooting 5 of 12 on Saturday, has hit the 20-point mark in four career home games against the Blazers. He’s totaled 47 points in the past two overall matchups this season.
The Clippers have averaged 115.3 points and 54.3 percent shooting during their three-game winning streak at home.
They should have a good chance for another big offensive effort against a Portland team that’s allowed an average of 109.0 points and 51.8 percent shooting during its skid.
Los Angeles has won five of seven in this series, including three in a row at home.