The Clippers and Golden State Warriors will square off in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs, with the first two games at Staples Center.
The series begins Saturday with a game at 12:30 p.m. Game 2 is set for Monday at 7:30 p.m.
The series then shifts to Oracle Arena in Oakland. Game 3 is April 24 (a week from Thursday) at 7:30 p.m. with game 4 also there a week from Sunday, April 27, at 12:30 p.m.
The rest falls under the “if necessary” category. Game 5 is scheduled for April 29 (time TBD) at Staples Center, No. 6 is May 1 at Golden State (time TBD) with No. 7 – the series finale – on May 3 at Staples Center. Again, time is TBD.
Oklahoma City came from behind to defeat the Detroit Pistons 112-111 at OKC on Wednesday, meaning the Clippers will play Golden State in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs that begin this weekend.
The victory by the Thunder secured them the No. 2 seed. Had they lost to Detroit and the Clippers were to win Wednesday night at Portland, the Clippers would have been No. 2. As it as, they will be the No. 3 seed with Golden State No. 6.
Sixth-man Jamal Crawford has now been back for two games following a five-game stint on the bench because of a nagging left calf injury that had previously seen him miss eight of nine games.
He is struggling with his shot so far, which is understandable. He made 3 of 8 from the field in a victory over Sacramento on Saturday and just 3 of 9 in Tuesday’s victory over Denver; in the latter, some of his shots were real bricks.
Crawford, who is averaging 18.4 points, doesn’t seem concerned. He said his calf is just fine.
“Calf is good, calf is really good,” he said following Tuesday’s game. “Just keep working through it. That’s what some practices look like that you guys don’t see, when the rust is coming off. Sometimes you’ve got to do it in front of 20,000 (fans), but that’s all right. The quicker I get the rust off, the better.”
The technical foul issued Blake Griffin during the second quarter of Tuesday’s victory over the visiting Denver Nuggets has been upheld by Rod Thorn, president of basketball operations for the NBA, according to NBA.com.
It was Griffin’s 16th technical of the season, meaning he must serve a one-game suspension without pay when the team visits Portland in Wednesday’s regular-season finale.
The technical occurred when Griffin was guarding Denver’s Timofey Mozgov. Mozgov was driving to the basket and as he was about to shoot Griffin raked the ball out of his hands, Griffin’s hand scraping the face of Mozgov with the follow-through.
Other than the cash, the suspension is moot because Griffin wasn’t going to play Wednesday anyway. Coach Doc Rivers told reporters in Tuesday’s post-game news conference he had already decided to hold Griffin and J.J. Redick back from the trip.
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.”