Clippers clinch 4th seed, will host Jazz in 1st round
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Clippers began the regular season as the NBA’s hottest team at 14-2. They ended it the same way, winning seven in a row to clinch the No. 4 seed in the West and home-court advantage in the playoffs.
DeAndre Jordan had 18 points and 17 rebounds in a 115-95 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night.
The Clippers and Utah Jazz will meet in the first round starting Saturday. The teams finished with similar 51-31 records, but the Clippers held the tiebreaker, having won the season series 3-1.
“We’re ready,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said.
J.J. Redick added 18 points for the Clippers, who needed a victory to gain home court after the Jazz beat San Antonio earlier in the evening. All five starters scored in double figures for Los Angeles.
“We won the game, we have home court, it’s all good,” Rivers said.
The Clippers pulled away in the third quarter after leading by six at halftime.
Langston Galloway hit a 3-pointer that drew the Kings to 61-59, the closest they came in the second half.
“The Clippers came out with a different edge,” said Kings guard Buddy Hield, who had 16 points. “We had a game in the first half. They pulled away in the second half.”
Redick’s jumper launched a 24-14 run that sent the Clippers into the fourth leading 87-73. Blake Griffin, who finished with 15 points, had eight in the spurt, while Redick and Chris Paul added five each.
“It’s nice to finish the season strong, but all of it us to build habits for the playoffs,” Paul said.
Willie Cauley-Stein had 19 points and 14 rebounds, and Arron Afflalo added 18 points for the Kings.
“This is the first year all of us have been together with the coaching staff. This is like our baseline,” Cauley-Stein said. “We move up from there and go to the next level.”
Sacramento won the teams’ last meeting 98-97 after rallying from 18 points down with five minutes to go last month. Four of the Clippers’ five starters remained in the game with 2 minutes to go even though the Kings never made a run.
“It was good for us to come out and have to play and focus on ourselves,” Griffin said.
Kings: They finished off the franchise’s 11th straight losing season at 32-50. … They fell to 6-13 in the second game of a back-to-back and 15-24 overall in such situations. … The team went 15-26 on the road.
Clippers: Redick made three 3-pointers to finish with 201, breaking his career high and single-season franchise record of 200. He set the mark in each of the past two seasons. … They won 50 or more games for the fifth straight season, joining San Antonio as the only teams to do so.
THE TRUTH APPEARS
The Clippers showed a tribute video for Paul Pierce during the game’s final timeout. The 39-year-old veteran is retiring at season’s end, having spent just two seasons in his hometown of Los Angeles and the majority of his career in Boston.
The crowd, including his mother and brothers, and his teammates gave him a standing ovation.
Fans chanted “We want Paul!” and they were rewarded when he checked in with 2:23 to play, missing both of his shots.
“It was special,” Paul said, wearing Gucci fur-lined slippers after the game. “It’s been a long ride, a great ride.”