The Clippers set a franchise record for victories in 2012-13 with 56. They broke that Tuesday with a 117-105 victory over visiting Denver. This weekend this group of Clippers – meaning the core consisting of Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan – together will be heading to the playoffs for the third consecutive season, and reserve forward Jared Dudley is jazzed.
“Last year they had a franchise record, and this year getting that, it shows you what this team is capable of now,” said Dudley, in his first season with the team. “Third time around going back to the playoffs, you bring in someone like (coach) Doc (Rivers) where expectations are higher, a lot of free agents coming in, and now it’s time to get started.
“We have one more game left (Wednesday at Portland) and then the showdown starts. I think the city is excited and I think that for this franchise, it shows that we’re taking big leaps.”
- Jamal Crawford’s outside shot was way off in this one. He was 3 of 9 from the field, 0 of 3 from 3-point range and he tossed up a couple of serious bricks. Since he has battled his calf injury for so long, this performance could create some worry. But not for teammate Blake Griffin. “I’m not concerned, definitely not,” he said. “Jamal will be ready to play. Everybody has an off game, if you even want to call it that. But Jamal is the least of our concerns, the least of my concerns, for sure.”
- It’s almost hard to believe that one player could amass as many as 16 technical fouls in a season. Griffin got his 16th in this one, though it could be rescinded. Still, whether it’s 15 or 16, it kind of boggles the mind. Then again, it’s Griffin’s intensity that helps make him the great player he’s become.
- Man, J.J. Redick was stroking that 3-pointer. He looked really good in making 4 of 6 from long distance, and his return to form could not come at a better time with the playoffs knocking on the door.
- Check out the line of Chris Paul: 21 points on 8 of 10 shooting, 3 of 5 from 3-point range; 10 assists; two steals; and just one turnover in 28 minutes. Not too shabby.
- DeAndre Jordan’s poor free-throw shooting was again a topic of conversation on press row. He missed his first seven before making his eighth, after which he received a round of applause. Interestingly, it’s not like he’s tossing up a laser that bounces 12 feet off the rim when he misses, the way other players do who struggle from the line. His shot is soft and often on line. Then it will hit the front of the rim and fall almost straight down. It seems like he’s close to making more. But his six-year career percentage of 42.5 suggests otherwise. He is shooting 42.8 percent this year.
Even after tonight’s games there are still things to be decided regarding the upcoming Western Conference playoffs.
- The Oklahoma City Thunder still need a victory or a Clippers loss to assure themselves of the No. 2 seed after being stunned by the New Orleans Pelicans 101-89 on Monday night, thanks in large part to 41 points from Tyreke Evans. The Clippers have two games left, the Thunder one.
- The Golden State Warriors wrapped up the No. 6 seed with their 130-120 victory over Minnesota on Monday. Had OKC taken care of business, we would know that the Warriors would be playing the Clippers in the first round. Since there are only two games Tuesday – the Clippers host Denver in one – we won’t know exactly what will happen there until Wednesday unless the Clippers lose to the Nuggets, which would sew up No. 2 for OKC, No. 3 for the Clippers and a Clippers-Warriors matchup. (By the way, OKC’s last game is Wednesday at home against the lowly Pistons; it’s doubtful they lose that one, so count on Clippers-Warriors in the first round.)
- Memphis has officially made the playoffs with its 97-91 victory over Phoenix, eliminating the Suns at the same time. The Grizzlies are tied for the seventh spot with Dallas. They are a game behind No. 6 Golden State. Memphis, Dallas and Golden State all have one game left.
It’s not that there are no Clippers with playoff experience, but none of their three best players – Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan – have made a deep run into the post-season. Their coach, Doc Rivers, has with the Celtics.
Rivers on Monday morning at practice was asked how he has been able to impart his knowledge in this regard.
“I’m just telling them what we need to do as a group,” he said. “I don’t even worry about their inexpierence because my experience … I dont know how much that helps them. You know, I really don’t. At the end of the day, it’s still basketball, I swear it is. It’s not going to be any different. They’re not going to put different obstacles out on the floor. There’s going to be five other players out there and at the end of the day you just gotta go do the job.”
Saturday’s game against the Sacramento Kings at Staples Center was interesting in that the visitors from up north came in with a record of 27-52 with, obviously, no playoffs in their immediate future.
Yet the Kings really made the Clippers work for the 117-101 victory. With 8:55 left in the game, the Clippers (56-24) held just a two-point lead at 91-89. One contributor is apparently a matchup situation. Their terrible record notwithstanding, the Kings played the Clippers tough all four games. The Clippers won the other three by just nine, one and six points.
Also, the Clippers are anxious for the playoffs to begin.
“You know, it’s interesting, certain games are a little tougher than others just because one team may not be playing for anything and another team might, but it’s a necessary thing,” Blake Griffin said. “You’ve got to play whole schedule and all that, but it would kind of be nice to start the playoffs when you’re ready.”
Clippers coach Doc Rivers told reporters about 11 a.m. Saturday morning that heralded sixth-man Jamal Crawford will play in the afternoon game against the visiting Sacramento Kings at Staples Center.
Crawford had missed the past five games with a strained left calf. He previously missed eight of nine games before playing five consecutive games ahead of going back on the shelf.
Rivers was queried as to how many minutes he expects Crawford to play.
“We’re not going to go out there and throw him out there for 30 minutes, I can tell you that,” Rivers said. “There’s not an actual minute restriction, but there’s a restriction.. We’re 0-for-2 in the comebacks of Jamal so far. So, yeah, I think at least with him the first two times it was pretty clear, you know, that he was struggling. We’ll keep a close eye on him.”
Crawford is averaging 18.6 points.
The Golden State Warriors clinched a playoff spot by defeating the Lakers 112-95 on Friday night at Staples Center, and they have brought themselves one step closer to playing the Clippers in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs.
The Clippers are a virtual lock to be the No. 3 seed. They will play the No. 6 seed, which is likely to be Golden State. That could only change if the Warriors were to catch No. 5 Portland or get passed by No. 7 Dallas or by Memphis or Phoenix, currently tied for eighth.
Golden State is 2 1/2 games behind Portland – the teams have three and two games left in the regular season, respectively. That’s not very probable.
Dallas is 1 1/2 games behind Golden State; the Mavericks have two games left, the Warriors three.
Memphis and Phoenix are both two games behind the Warriors and just a half-game behind Dallas. The Grizzlies and Suns have three games left apiece.
Houston, by the way, is in fourth, just a half-game ahead of Portland.
Coach Doc Rivers on Wednesday night was asked about the MVP race. His reply was only partially surprising.
“I think (Kevin) Durant’s had the best year,” Rivers said of the Oklahoma City star. “I still think LeBron (James) is the best player in the NBA, but I think Durant has had an MVP year. I really believe that. I don’t know who has had a better year. And I honestly think Blake would be right behind him, in my opinion, but I don’t think I have a vote.”
Blake Griffin could finish third in the voting, but Durant and James figure to be first and second one way or the other.
Blake Griffin is having the best season of his career overall, and that has not gone unnoticed by Oklahoma City head coach Scott Brooks, who could not say enough about Griffin prior to Wednesday night’s game between the Clippers and Thunder won by the Thunder 107-101.
“Oh, he’s developed every year,” Brooks said. “It’s amazing that he continues to develop at the high level he’s played at the last couple of years. He’s gotten better this year, scoring 24, 25 points a game, and 10 rebounds. His outside shot has improved, his free throws have improved, his playmaking has improved. He’s just a great player, he’s going to go down as one of the best power forwards in the game the way he plays. He plays hard, he gets rebounds, he defends.”
Griffin is averaging a career-high 24.1 points. He’s averaging 9.6 rebounds. His best in that department was 12.1 in his rookie season in 2010-11, but back then DeAndre Jordan was not averaging nearly 14 rebounds like he is now, so he has taken some of those away from Griffin. Griffin is also shooting 71 percent from the free-throw line, a career-best.