Much of the Los Angeles Clippers’ focus has been on the playoffs, a place where they won’t have to worry about the New Orleans Pelicans.
However, Los Angeles would be wise not to overlook surging New Orleans as it begins a five-game road trip.
The Clippers will try to win a seventh straight meeting Wednesday night while denying the Pelicans a season-best fourth consecutive victory.
Los Angeles (50-21) leads the Pacific Division and is headed toward a third straight postseason for the first time since 1974-76 when the franchise was located in Buffalo.
The Clippers have won 13 of 14, but they had a lackluster effort in Monday’s 106-98 victory over NBA-worst Milwaukee. It marked their fifth straight game against a non-playoff contender, and coach Doc Rivers could see his players weren’t completely engaged.
"At the end of the day, we won the game, and I’ll take that," Rivers said. "Sometimes guys are ready for these games, sometimes they are not. I thought we went in and out."
Chris Paul, who finished with 14 points and seven assists, said Los Angeles can’t help but look ahead to the playoffs and chasing a championship.
"It’s all about playoff preparation. The regular season, it is what it is," Paul said. "I guarantee you when the playoffs start, no one will remember this game."
Blake Griffin scored 27 points for his 29th straight contest with at least 20, marking the longest such streak for the franchise since it relocated from San Diego in 1984. Griffin also had 14 rebounds for the Clippers, whose only loss during their hot stretch came in their most recent road game at Denver on March 17.
Los Angeles will also face Dallas, Houston, Minnesota and Phoenix on this trip. Those teams are a combined 94-46 at home this season and only the Timberwolves are on the outside of the postseason picture.
"We haven’t really accomplished what we wanted to on the road, so this would be a good opportunity for us to really play against quality teams – teams who are fighting for a playoff position and also fighting to get into the playoffs," Griffin said.
New Orleans (30-40) isn’t among those in contention, but the teams it has beaten during the win streak are all in the Eastern Conference race. The Pelicans scored victories over Atlanta and Miami before beating Brooklyn 109-104 in overtime Monday.
"As a team, they’re always going to play hard," Paul said of the Pelicans. "Anthony Davis has been unreal."
Davis is averaging 31.3 points and 13.5 rebounds over his last nine after finishing with 24 and 14 against the Nets. Tyreke Evans added a season-high 33 points to help the Pelicans overcame a 22-point deficit in the third quarter – the second-largest comeback in franchise history.
"The bottom line is we just hung in there," coach Monty Williams said. "I’m proud of our guys. We just fight. We hang in there with each other, and that’s the sign of a high-character locker room.
"For us to be the team I think we can be, we’ve got to continue to play with that kind of effort."
New Orleans played without Eric Gordon for the second straight game due to left knee tendinitis. He’s considered a game-time decision for this contest after totaling just 21 points while shooting 30 percent in three losses against his former team this season.
The Clippers held the Pelicans to their season low for points in the last meeting, winning 108-76 at Staples Center on March 1.