Clippers Week in Review: Down the final stretch

The week ahead

The last long road trip of the regular season ends this week with stops at Minnesota on Monday and Phoenix on Wednesday. The Clippers return home Thursday night to face the Dallas Mavericks, the start of a closing stretch in which five of their last six games are at Staples Center. Of their final eight games, three are against teams jockeying for playoff position in the Western Conference.

The week behind

The Clippers rebounded from a disheartening road loss at New Orleans to win games at Dallas and Houston, clinching a third consecutive trip to the postseason. Saturday’s win over the Rockets was especially important because it gave them a two-game lead over Houston for the No. 3 seed in the conference. It also left them with a 21-17 road record, proving they can win big games away from home.

Record and standings

For a second consecutive season, the Clippers broke the 50-win barrier and have a chance to surpass last season’s win total of 56. Their 52-22 record gives them a two-game cushion over Houston for the No. 3 seed and keeps them within striking distance of No. 2 Oklahoma City. Maybe that April 9 date with the Thunder at Staples will have implications for playoff seeding.

Thumb’s up

Clippers’ Blake Griffin leaves Houston Rockets game with back spasm
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After forward Blake Griffin left Saturday’s game at Houston with back spasms, center DeAndre Jordan stepped up his game at both ends of the court. With Griffin out, Danny Granger sent back home with a strained left hamstring and Glen Davis ordered back to the locker room, Jordan lifted the Clippers with 20 points, 12 rebounds and six blocked shots.

Thumb’s down

Was Big Baby a big baby? It sure seemed so after coach Doc Rivers became so exasperated with Glen Davis that he sent him to the locker room Saturday night at Houston. The Clippers are a team built largely on chemistry, so any distraction could be considered detrimental to the team. Rivers said Davis was "emotional," whatever that means, but unless the issue is resolved quickly, Davis could become a liability in the playoffs. Chances are, Rivers won’t let that happen.

Player to watch

No player is more important to the Clippers’ future success than Blake Griffin. That’s why the back spasms that knocked him out of Saturday’s game against the Rockets are reason for concern. Coach Doc Rivers said Griffin is day to day, but he’s going to be monitored closely the next several days for both his back and the sore hip that Rivers revealed is also bothering him.

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Stat of the week

0 for 12. That was guard Chris Paul’s shooting line Wednesday in New Orleans. Paul did contribute 12 assists and three steals, but he couldn’t make a shot all night. To his credit, he came back to score 31 points one night later in Dallas and then 30 against the Rockets.

Quotable

"I love Baby. I just didn’t think emotionally he was ready to play tonight, so we told him to go to the locker room." – Coach Doc Rivers, to the Los Angeles Times, on his decision to have Glen Davis escorted off the court Saturday night in Houston