Clippers-Kings Preview

The Los Angeles Clippers are in control of their own destiny for

home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

The destiny of the Sacramento Kings’ franchise, meanwhile, is

far from certain.

The Clippers can clinch home-court advantage in round one

Wednesday night when they visit the Kings in what could be the

final NBA game ever in Sacramento.

Los Angeles (55-26) cruised in its home finale, 93-77 over

Portland on Tuesday. Caron Butler scored a game-high 22 points and

Blake Griffin added 16 in a team-high 27 minutes as the Clippers

got plenty of rest as they try to improve to 14-7 in the second

half of back-to-back games.

“It’s very, very important,” Griffin said. “We want to have

home-court advantage in the first round.”

The Clippers will gain the No. 3 seed with a victory Wednesday

if Denver’s franchise-record 22-game home win streak is snapped by

the Western Conference’s worst team, Phoenix. If Los Angeles and

Denver win, the Clippers will host Memphis.

The only way Los Angeles will receive home-court advantage with

a loss is if the Grizzlies fall at home to Utah.

Sacramento (28-53), meanwhile, is in the familiar position of

playing a home finale that could be the last NBA game ever in

California’s state capital.

Wednesday will conclude the Kings’ 28th season in Sacramento.

Hours before this tipoff, NBA owners will gather in a New York

boardroom to begin deliberating where the team will be located next

season.

The Maloof family reached an agreement in January to sell a 65

percent controlling interest of the Kings to a Seattle group led by

hedge-fund manager Chris Hansen at a total franchise valuation of

$525 million, an NBA record. Hansen said he would raise the

valuation to $550 million in response to Sacramento mayor Kevin

Johnson pushing a non-binding financing plan for a $447 million

downtown arena through the City Council.

Two years ago, the Kings entered their home finale after

Anaheim’s City Council issued the bonds needed to entice the

franchise and new federal trademark rights were requested.

“Pretty much every year since I’ve been here, the past five

years, the last game of the season has been at home and it’s been

the same feeling – that uncertainty,” forward Jason Thompson said.

“It’s just a little bit more into the media this year and things

have been really going back and forth and stuff like that, so it’s

a little bit more emotion.”

On the court, Sacramento has dropped three straight and seven of

eight. Second-leading scorer Tyreke Evans left after hurting his

left knee in the first quarter of Monday’s 104-95 loss to Oklahoma

City, and coach Keith Smart said his preference was for the guard

to sit out Wednesday.

Griffin is averaging 20.3 points on 62.5 percent shooting to

help the Clippers go 2-1 against the Kings this season, though his

26 points made little difference in a 116-101 loss at Sacramento on

March 19. He could match up with DeMarcus Cousins, who has averaged

11.3 points in the season series.

Chauncey Billups returned Tuesday for the Clippers after he

missed eight games with a strained right groin. He missed all five

shots and had four points and five assists.

“I was happy to be out there running around,” he said. “I was a

little too excited with my shots.”