CLIPPERS CLOSE THE BOOK ON A TOUGH MARCH

The Clippers didn’t so much drag themselves to the finish line as they sprinted through it.

The most taxing month in NBA history came to a close Friday, a grueling, unforgiving 20-game in 31-night March marathon that at various points had their playoff hopes fading and their coaches’ job in jeopardy.

But as they blew past March into April Saturday they did so with a convincing 105-96 win over the Utah Jazz to complete their first five-game winning streak in more than five years.

The impressive push over the last week was the ideal antidote for the Clippers tired legs and weary minds. And as March turns into April they are beginning to see an end-game to this crazy regular season.

That, coupled with a tense playoff race in which only four games separates the third seed from missing the playoffs altogether is the carrot the Clippers hope pulls their exhausted bodies through the final 14 games of the season.

Nine of the 14 are on the road, with four coming on the second night of back-to-backs.

“It should,” said Clippers guard Chris Paul. “As you can see the Western Conference is bunched together and right now all wins are valuable.”

With the Jazz victory being no less impactful then any that might follow.

The Clippers were playing their fifth game in six nights and second in the last two. And of course, their 20th in the last 31 days.

“This was one of those games you just had to find a way,” Paul said. “Playing last night and having the day just to sit around and chill. I was talking to Chauncey (Billups) and I was like man, you could tell this was number 20. But you have to figure out a way to win.”

Clippers forward Blake Griffin agrees.

“You could definitely feel it,” Griffin said. “The road trip. Coming back and playing however many back-to-backs we played then three straight, you could definitely feel it. It was taxing.”

Paul finished with 26 points while Blake Griffin added 24 points and seven rebounds.

Randy Foye added 17 points and Nick Young had 13 off the bench as the Clippers finished with their first five-game winning streak since November, 2006.

The Clippers finished the month with an 11-9 record.

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