Clippers week in review: Tuning up for playoffs
The week ahead
Can you feel it? The Clippers are almost to the end, which means they’re getting closer to the beginning … of the playoffs. They play just four times in the next 10 days, starting with a Wednesday night game against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Staples Center. A win would put the Clippers closer to the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference and home-court advantage for the first two rounds of the playoffs.
The week behind
Can the Clippers win on the road? They proved they could by going 4-1 on their recent trip, including victories at Minnesota and Phoenix last week. The only blip was a home loss to the Dallas Mavericks last Thursday, but they rebounded by beating the Lakers on Sunday night and improving their two-season record against their rivals to 7-1.
Record and standings
The Clippers clinched their second consecutive Pacific Division title, but their focus now is a strong finish and a shot at the No. 2 seed. At 55-23, they need just one more win to match last season’s franchise-best win total of 56. Until last season, no Clippers team, including those in San Diego and Buffalo, had won more than 49 games.
The return of shooting guard J.J. Redick was a welcome sight to the Clippers. After missing 25 games because of a bulging disk in his lower back, Redick returned last week and scored 12 points off the bench against Dallas. Sunday against the Lakers, he made his first start since Nov. 27 and made 7 of 11 shots for 15 points. Having Redick back not only strengthens the backcourt, it allows the Clippers to have a formidable backup unit with Darren Collison and Jamal Crawford coming off the bench.
Tough to find fault with anything the Clippers are doing these days. In fact, the only thumb’s down belongs to Dodgers fans, who booed Chris Paul when his image was shown on the video board at the team’s home opener last Friday. Boo Chris Paul? Lakers fans must have long memories.
Player to watch
Actually, two players will bear watching over the next two weeks: Jamal Crawford and Danny Granger. Crawford has missed the past four games (and nine of the past 14) with a strained left calf, and Granger has sat out five consecutive games with a strained left hamstring. It’s possible Crawford could return before the regular season ends, but coach Doc Rivers has said Granger might not be ready until the playoffs. When healthy, they give the Clippers considerable scoring power off the bench, so the health of both is vital.
Stat of the week
Despite losing their season opener to the Lakers, the Clippers have dominated their downtown rivals. They won the final three regular-season meetings by 36, 48 and 23 points, an average of 35.6 points.
"It’s about us, how we execute, how we compete." — Clippers forward Blake Griffin on the team’s focus in preparation for the playoffs.