Clippers go for 4th seed in final game of season
For a playoff-bound team, the ideal scenario during the last game of the six-month season is being able to rest key players.
A decent alternative is controlling your destiny in terms of seeding or home-court advantage.
Heading into their finale against the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday at Staples Center, the Los Angeles Clippers will not be resting anyone because they can get home court in the first round if they win.
“Our destiny is in our hands,” said DeAndre Jordan, who had 14 points and 11 rebounds in a 126-95 rout of the Houston Rockets on Monday.
Los Angeles (50-31) knows it will begin its sixth straight postseason appearance by facing the Utah Jazz (50-31). Whether the extra game takes place in Los Angeles or Salt Lake City will not be known until Wednesday.
The Clippers own the head-to-head tiebreaker, having won three of four meetings with Utah. Los Angeles clinched the tiebreaker with a 108-95 victory March 25 as reserve Jamal Crawford scored 28 points.
At the time of its last win over Utah, Los Angeles was 44-30 and one-half game back. It took the Clippers until Saturday’s win over the San Antonio Spurs to tie Utah.
“To be a really good team, you have to win no matter where it’s at, but obviously we would like to have as many games as possible in front of our fans,” Crawford said.
While the Clippers are awaiting tipoff against the Kings, they’ll keep a close eye on events in Salt Lake City. The Jazz are hosting the San Antonio Spurs in a game that begins 90 minutes earlier.
Both teams stayed tied Monday. While Utah ended Golden State’s 14-game winning streak, Los Angeles won its sixth straight and improved to 10-2 in its last 12 games as Chris Paul and Crawford scored 19 points apiece.
“I was trying to do some scoreboard watching, but I could not find the Jazz score in the arena until the fourth quarter,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “We will play our regular rotation against Sacramento on Wednesday.”
The Clippers were 6-8 when Paul sat with a thumb injury Jan. 19 to Feb. 23. Los Angeles is 15-9 since Paul returned, and the point guard is averaging 19.1 points and 8.5 assists in those games.
“We’ve played with adversity throughout the whole season,” Clippers forward Blake Griffin said. “We have had injuries, played without Chris Paul and now we are playing our best.”
Sacramento is closing out its 11th straight non-playoff season. The Kings are 8-16 since trading DeMarcus Cousins to the New Orleans Pelicans but 5-4 in their last nine games after a 129-104 rout of the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday.
Besides potentially spoiling the Clippers’ attempt to secure home court, the Kings (32-49) can match their win total from last season.
“I don’t have any love for the Clippers,” coach Dave Joerger said. “We’re going to go down there and wreck it. Our guys have not had any problem coming out and competing. They’ve been playing hard and been playing together.”
On Tuesday, Ty Lawson recorded his first triple-double — 22 points, 12 assists, 11 rebounds — and rookie Buddy Hield scored a career-high 30 points. Overall, eight players reached double figures and nobody played more than 32 minutes as the Kings never trailed and shot 51.8 percent.
“It was nice; it really was,” Lawson said. “The ball seemed to be coming my way early, and I was able to get a lot of rebounds early. After that, I just tried to stay aggressive, like I always do.”
Los Angeles has won 18 of the last 22 meetings with the Kings.
The Clippers won both meetings in Sacramento this season. The Kings claimed a 98-97 victory in Los Angeles on March 26, on Willie-Cauley Stein’s follow shot with two seconds left after the Clippers held an 18-point lead early in the fourth quarter.