Play It Forward: April 14-20 on your sports calendar — NBA, NHL playoffs launch, so who’s in (and more glaring, who isn’t)?

THIS WEEK’S BEST BET:

Clippers center DeAndre Jordan, left, smiles at teammate forward Blake Griffin, right, after Griffin dunked against the Sacramento Kings during the second half of Saturday's game at Staples Center. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)

Clippers center DeAndre Jordan, left, smiles at teammate forward Blake Griffin, right, after Griffin dunked against the Sacramento Kings during the second half of Saturday’s game at Staples Center. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)

NBA PLAYOFFS
WESTERN CONFERENCE QUARTERFINALS:
GAME 1: CLIPPERS vs. GOLDEN STATE/DALLAS/MEMPHIS:
At Staples Center: Post season begins Saturday, times and TV to be announced:
The Clippers are playing it cool these days. “It doesn’t matter who we play in the first round,” Matt Barnes was saying the other day. “We’ll be ready regardless and we have no preference.” Spoken like a true vet of post-season, this-is-out-of-our-hands experiences.  “We’re going to have to play three tough teams to get to the finals no matter what seed we are,” teammate Blake Griffin seemed to agree. “If we were 1 or we were 8, we would have to play some tough teams home and away.”

Rihanna seems to enjoy her courtside seats watching the Clippers face Oklahoma City last week.  (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)

Rihanna seems to enjoy her courtside seats watching the Clippers face Oklahoma City last week. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)

How toughened up the Clippers are considering their recent playoff history and their transformation under Doc Rivers this year will now be under more intense scrutiny. If you go by the Hollinger Power Rankings on ESPN.com, the Clippers have held down the No. 2 spot of all 30 teams for the last couple of weeks (behind San Antonio, ahead of Oklahoma City), so they’ve powered up at the right time. There are a couple of ways things could go for them in the first round, depending on how the Warriors (No. 5 in the same power rankings, one spot ahead of Miami), Mavericks (No. 9) and Grizzlies (No. 10) decide to angle for position. At least there is no more talk of the “Hallway Series” meetings with the Lakers any more, unless some players happen to run into Pau Gasol cleaning out his locker. The key to the Clippers’ future is how they hold up defensively, and that seems to fall on the consistency of DeAndre Jordan, leading the league in rebounding (13.8) and third in blocked shots (2.46), not to mention a league-best in field-goal percentage (.674) to go with a career-best 10.4 points a game in an already star-studded offense. “You talk about so many different awards for so many different people,” teammate Chris Paul said recently. “I think D.J. is a guy who should be up for most improved, who should be up for defensive player of the year, all that type of stuff. He’s got to get something.”

BEST OF THE REST:

MONDAY

MLB: ANGELS vs. OAKLAND
Angel Stadium, 7:05 p.m., ESPN, FSW:
Tommy Milone, the former Saugus High and USC lefthander who won 25 games over the last two seasons in Oakland, is slotted to pitch in the final game of this season for the A’s. He lost his first outing against Seattle, giving up five runs (three earned) with seven Ks in five innings.
The series continues:
Tuesday at 7:05 p.m., FSW
Wedmesday at 7:05 p.m., Channel 13

NBA: LAKERS at UTAH, 6 p.m., TWC SportsNet:
Not to take away from this, but the WNBA Sparks will be involved in the draft on this day (6 p.m., ESPN2). It’s not as if the Lakers couldn’t use any help. Magic Johnson’s Sparks had the No. 11 overall pick – next to last in the first round – but traded it to Connecticut last month for international player Sandrine Gruda. The Sun, for that matter, has the No. 1 choice (after its 10-24 season), and the team is hosting the draft as well.  Of the 36 picks made over three rounds, the Sparks have No. 23 and No. 35. Among the top prospects are Stanford’s Chiney Ogwumike, the younger sister of Sparks forward and 2012 No. 1 overall pick Nneka Ogwumike.

TUESDAY

MLB: DODGERS at SAN FRANCISCO, 7:10 p.m., SportsNet L.A.:
The three-game series starts with the annual celebration of Jackie Robinson Day — with the team No. 42 played for 10 seasons (1947-56), against the team he was traded to at the end of his career but retired before that ever happened. The Giants won two of three against the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium last week, scoring eight and seven runs against them in the first two games. Tim Lincecum, sporting a 9.90 ERA two starts into a season where he’s making $22 million, faces Josh Beckett, with a 9.00 ERA after one start in a year he’ll make $16 mil, to start this series. Beckett only went four innings (85 pitches) in an eventual loss to Detroit last week, makes his second start of the season as Clayton Kershaw needs more time to work his way back.
The series continues:
Wednesday at 7:10 p.m., SportsNet L.A.
Thursday at 12:45 p.m., SportsNet L.A.

NBA: CLIPPERS vs. DENVER
Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., TNT, Prime:
The Nuggets have nothing (more) to lose. The Clippers … could they move up to the No. 2 seed?

WEDNESDAY

NHL PLAYOFFS: WESTERN CONFERENCE QUARTERFINALS
GAME 1: DUCKS vs. DALLAS
At Honda Center, 7 p.m., FSW:
The Ducks and Stars had some high-shooting affairs – they traded 6-3 triumphs in October and November before the Stars posted a 2-0 win last February in Dallas when former Ducks backup Dan Ellis recorded the shutout on 26 saves. Still, the Stars expect to go with Kari Lehtonen (32-20-10, 2.54 GAA), who came back from a concussion recently suffered a month ago. Tim Thomas is his backup these days.
The series continues:
Game 2: Friday at Honda Center, 7 p.m., Prime

NBA: CLIPPERS at PORTLAND, 7:30 p.m., Prime:
Get out without any injuries. The final regular-season record really doesn’t mean much at this point.

NBA: LAKERS at SAN ANTONIO:
5 p.m., TWC SportsNet:
And now, the end is here. Tanks for the memories. The 1974-75 team (which finished with a sparkling 30-52 mark) thanks you for your participation. Next stop: The May 20 draft lottery.

THURSDAY

NHL PLAYOFFS
WESTERN CONFERENCE QUARTERFINALS
GAME 1: KINGS at SAN JOSE, 7:30 p.m., FSW:
How does this sound: Three teams from California have made the NHL playoffs, but only one from Canada qualified. With Montreal as the lone rep north of the border, this is the first time Canada has only one playoff team since 1973, as Canada tries to end its 21-year Stanley Cup drought — meaning, we circle back again to when the Canadiens eliminated the Kings in the 1993 title series. If there’s any chance of a Kings-Canadiens rematch, it’ll start here, where two of the three California teams must square off. The Kings did win the five-game regular-season series against the Sharks, 3-1-1, but lost almost two weeks ago in San Jose, 2-1. This, for a team that went 15-6-2 after the Olympic break and had new acquisition Marian Gaborik put post three goals and nine assists in the last 10 games.
The series continues:
Game 2: Sunday at San Jose, 7 p.m., FSW

TRACK AND FIELD: 56th MT. SAC RELAYS
At Hilmer Lodge Stadium, Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, 6 p.m.:
The meet that usually brings out some of the top athletes in the world has events for the university competitors Thursday and Friday (10:15 a.m.), with the Olympic-rated stars coming out on Sunday (11:50 a.m.). A year ago, the women’s 4×100 meter meet record was broken (41.79) by Mandy White, Carmelita Jeter, Lauryn Williams and Blessing Okabore.

FRIDAY

DODGERS vs. ARIZONA
Dodger Stadium, 7:10 p.m., SportsNet L.A.
Playing these D’backs back-to-back-to-back is like a day a the beach, whether it’s Australia, Phoenix or . . . it’s L.A. this time, right? In fact, this marks the first of nine in a row at home for the Dodgers, who have already won five games against Arizona among their first 13 of the 2014 schedule.
The series continues:
Saturday at 5:10 p.m., Fox Sports 1, SportsNet L.A.
Sunday at 1:10 p.m., SportsNet L.A.

MLB: ANGELS at DETROIT, 4 p.m., FSW:
Two-time defending AL MVP Miguel Cabrera, with his new mega-contract extension, has another photo opp with two-time AL MVP runner-up Mike Trout, who also is fresh off his new deal. This may be too rich for some folks in Detroit to stomach..
The series continues:
Saturday at 10 a.m., Fox Sports 1
Sunday at 10 a.m., FSW

SATURDAY

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: USC SPRING GAME
Coliseum, 3 p.m., Pac-12 Network:
Steve Sarkisian hasn’t spent this spring talking about the lack of scholarship players, and Cody Kessler hasn’t had much to complain about the up-tempo offensive system that the Trojans head coach has put into play. “Sometimes it’s difficult because you want to talk to guys between plays. You can’t do that,” Kessler, entering his redshirt junior season, told SI.com recently. “I feel a lot more confident. I’m taking the approach that this is my team, these guys are going to follow me. I’m going to be the leader of this team.” Injuries may keep Sarkisian from putting on a full scrimmage in this end-of-spring ritual.

MLS:
GALAXY at VANCOUVER, 4 p.m., TWC SportsNet:
Why does this already feel like a playoff series? It’s the second time these two have met in a week — the Galaxy came away with a 1-0 win against the Whitecaps at Stub Hub Center last Saturday. They do have a third meeting, but it’s not until the end of August.

AFL: KISS at IOWA, 5 p.m, CBS Sports Net:
They’re off to a 2-2 start, if you’re keeping track.

SUNDAY

GOLF: PGA RBC HERITAGE, final round, noon, Channel 2:
Maybe it’s not the Masters’ Sunday, but it’s Easter Sunday, and watching golf played at Hilton Head, South Carolina ain’t bad. Golf Channel has the first two rounds Thursday and Friday; CBS has the third round Saturday.

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email