Hard-fought win moves Clippers to No. 4 seed
The Clippers’ fate is now in their own hands.
By defeating the Memphis Grizzlies 91-87 Saturday night, the Clippers now own home-court advantage in the first-round of the NBA playoffs. With a bit of good fortune, they could even finish third in the Western Conference.
The important point is this: Their victory over the Grizzles secured the No. 4 seed in the conference for the Clippers – and with it goes the all-important home court should they face Memphis in the first round.
The Clippers and Grizzlies are both 54-26, but the Clippers hold the tiebreaker by virtue of winning the Pacific Division. If they win their final two regular-season games – a home game against Portland and a road game at Sacramento – they would ensure themselves home-court edge against the fifth seed, which at this point is Memphis.
Although the playoffs don’t begin until next weekend, Saturday’s game was played at a frenetic playoff pace. The Clippers closed out the game on a 19-10 scoring run, got big play from their bench and held Memphis to 14 points in the final quarter.
“It definitely had playoff intensity to it,” guard Chris Paul said. “That’s a great team over there with maybe the best big-man combination in the league. I think our bigs did an outstanding job – DJ, Blake played great games -- and we’re going to need that out of them.”
Center DeAndre Jordan played with great energy in the first half and finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds. Blake Griffin had 12 points and 9 rebounds. The bench scored 40 points, with Grant Hill – in his first appearance since March 30 – hitting successive baskets during a 14-0 run that helped the Clippers take an 86-77 lead.
“I just tried to go out and give the team energy and help here and there,” Hill said.
Griffin made a pivotal defensive play late in the game when he poked away a pass from Mike Conley to Zach Randolph with 5.9 seconds left and the Clippers leading 89-87. He was awarded a clear-path foul when Jerryd Bayless grabbed him on a breakaway but missed both foul shots, although the Clippers still had possession of the ball.
Jamal Crawford then made two free throws after he was fouled by Tony Allen.
The win puts the Clippers within a half-game of the Denver Nuggets for the third seed. The Nuggets play the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday, and a Portland victory would push the Clippers in a tie for the third seed.
That’s not likely to happen. The Nuggets own the best home-court record in the NBA at 36-3, but right now, the Clippers surely must like where they’re sitting – and how they got there.
“We just showed a lot of will, a lot of grit,” Paul said.