Jamal Crawford says he’s still working on getting the rust off

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.”

 

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Tuesday’s technical foul on Blake Griffin is upheld by the league

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.

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Jared Dudley believes the city is excited about the team and upcoming playoffs

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.”

 

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Five things to take from Clippers’ 117-105 victory over Denver on Tuesday

- 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.

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Golden State secures No. 6 seed, but OKC’s loss to Pelicans prevents it from clinching No. 2

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.

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Five things to take from Clippers’ franchise-tying 56th victory

- It was of course great to see Jamal Crawford back out there. Even better was that he hit two clutch 3-point baskets to help his team pull away for the 117-101 victory over a poor yet stubborn Kings team on Saturday.

- Yes, it was the franchise-tying 56th victory of the season for the Clippers. That’s all good, but that won’t mean much of the Clippers don’t advance past the first round of the playoffs.

- Unless something weird happens, DeAndre Jordan is about a lock to finish as the NBA’s regular-season leader in field goal percentage and rebounding. He is currently averaging 13.7 rebounds, ahead of second-place Andre Drummond of Detroit (13.2). With his 9-for-13 performance against the Kings, he’s now shooting 67.5 percent from the field; Drummond is second at 62.5. Only two other players have ever led the league in both categories – Wilt Chamberlain (8 times) and Dwight Howard.

- That said, Jordan needs to improve his free-throw shooting. That’s not news. But he was just 3 of 11 against the Kings, dropping his season average to 43.4 percent. It’s true that he was even worse last season – 38.6 percent – but still, he’s gotta get better there. He’s shooting 42.7 percent in his six years in the league.

- We say this a lot, but man oh man, you have got to love the way Blake Griffin plays. The man is a beast, but he’s also become a great passer. He had nine assists against the Kings, and some of them were beautiful things to see.

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Come on, let’s get to the post-season already

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.”

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Jamal Crawford set to play against the Sacramento Kings

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.

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Golden State clinches playoff berth, brings itself one step closer to date with Clippers

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.

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Five things to take from Clippers’ 107-101 loss Wednesday to Oklahoma City

- It’s so obvious just how much the Clippers miss Jamal Crawford in a game of this magnitude. Shooting less than 40 percent most of the game, the Clippers really could have used the sharp-shooting Crawford. With him in the game, they likely are not down by 15 points in the fourth quarter in the first place.

- The good news is, Crawford told a few of us before the game that he will play again before the playoffs begin late next week. He said the last thing he wants to do is have the first game of the playoffs be his first game back. He has now missed five consecutive games with that strained left calf. He previously had missed eight of nine games because of the injury before coming back to play in five games ahead of this current episode.

- Yes, it’s good that the Clippers showed some spunk by nearly erasing all of a 15-point deficit with just over seven minutes to play. They came within a point. But they certainly did not play well throughout the game. At times, they looked downright out of rhythm on offense, something coach Doc Rivers conceded in the post-game news conference. They had to have been ready to play. How could they not be for such an important game? The one thing the Clippers can’t do in the post-season is fall behind and expect to  come back just because they do it rather well. They need to be ready to rumble at the opening bell.

- J.J. Redick shot a very uncharacteristic 1-for-7 from the field. If it were anyone other than Redick, you’d say it wasn’t a big deal because every shooter has an off night. But since Redick recently missed two months with a bulging disc in his back, it evokes worry that his back might be acting up again. The Clippers had better hope not. By the way, all of Redick’s seven shot attempts were from beyond the 3-point line.

- Now that OKC has all but locked up the No. 2 spot in the Western Conference standings, the Clippers pretty much know they’re going to be No. 3. The No. 4 Rockets could have gained a game on the Clippers, but they lost to Denver and remain 2 1/2 games behind the Clippers. The Rockets have four games left, the Clippers three. The Thunder, with a 2 1/2-game lead on the Clippers, have four games remaining. If the season ended today, the Clippers would play No. 6 Golden State in the first round of the playoffs.

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