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.
When the Clippers entered the locker room at halftime of Saturday’s 112-103 victory over the Detroit Pistons, the coaching staff was not thrilled with them. After leading by as many as 13 points in the first quarter and by 10 at the end of the quarter, they were outscored 29-20 in the second by a Pistons team that came in 25-43.
Blake Griffin talked about what was said by head coach Doc Rivers and company at intermission.
“Doc said we had a whole lot of unnecessary energy,” Griffin said. “I think their (coaches) point was just that when things started going bad, when they made a run, we just kind of had bad energy.
“We didn’t put our heads down and work harder, we just kind of gave up, and that’s on me just as much as anybody. So I’m proud of how we responded.”
The Clippers (49-21), who host Milwaukee on Monday at 7:30 p.m., outscored the Pistons 24-15 in the third quarter and played their best defense of the game.
It’s true the Clippers’ road record of 19-16 is not terrific. However, during their recent 11-game winning streak, they did win all five of their away games.
Interestingly, coach Doc Rivers said that is all immaterial as it relates to the playoffs, which begin in less than a month.
“It doesn’t matter right now,” Rivers said ahead of Saturday’s game against the visiting Detroit Pistons. “We’re going to have to win on the road in the playoffs. Bottom line. Whether we lose the rest of the road games in the regular season, we’re going to have to go in somebody’s building and win a big game on the road.
“That’s just it. There is no preparation for that, there really isn’t. You can win all your regular season road games, it still doesn’t prepare you for it. You’ve just gotta to out and win on the road, and you’ve gotta know that going into it. And if you don’t, then we’ll be back home, and that’s a fact.”
Matt Barnes has a reputation as being a hard-nosed player and a live wire, and sometimes it gets him in trouble with officials. Though he is not the league leader, he does have three flagrant fouls this year and two ejections. His coach, Doc Rivers, is not bemoaning that one bit.
“Well, I think half of that’s earned, half of that’s misunderstood,” Rivers said of Barnes’ stature. “But I don’t think you’re given a reputation, I think you earn one, for the most part. And sometimes if it’s not true, you have to live your life or whatever and try to dispell it.
“I like what Matt brings and I like his reputation. He’s on the edge, and that’s good. He’s keeping it clean, and that’s good.”
Well, somewhat clean, anyway.
Jared Sullinger of Boston leads the NBA with six flagrant fouls.
One of the topics of discussion at Thursday’s practice was the two days off the team received from coach Doc Rivers. In other words, no mandatory practice Tuesday and Wednesday.
Chris Paul told reporters he liked having the time to spend with his family. Rivers agreed that’s a big deal.
“I think it’s important,” Rivers said.
That doesn’t mean the players stay completely away, however, and Rivers likes that.
“I think every team’s different,” he said. “I mean, I think in most cases even on the days off most guys work out anyway; they’re going to do something. This group has been very good at that. … I would say 95 percent of them come in and get work in. We have one of those groups. It’s a working group.
“We don’t really have any slackers, other than some of you guys.”
He got a laugh out of reporters..
“No, no, really, it’s a good group,” he said. “And it’s a little surprising for me because they’re young and sometimes the young guys, you’ve gotta tell them. This is not one of those groups, and that’s nice.”
Guard Jamal Crawford has missed eight of the past nine games with a strained left calf. At Thursday’s practice in Playa Vista he talked about how badly he wants to get back in the game, and he said he may play Saturday when his team hosts the Detroit Pistons.
One person in his family, his young son J.J., is wondering why the heck his pops has not played lately.
“It’s funny, but my son, J.J. – because he still comes to the games even when I don’t play – he was like, ‘Dad, why aren’t you playing basketball anymore?’ And I’m like,’Yeah, OK, it’s time for me to get back out there.'”
Crawford turned 34 on Thursday.