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Clippers make clinching a playoff berth look easy against 76ers

Clippers roll past the Philadelphia 76ers, 119-98, clinching a playoff berth along the way

It was a locker room devoid of champagne, commemorative T-shirts or even congratulatory chatter, the Clippers acting as if they had done nothing more than log a late-season victory over one of the worst teams in the NBA.

The significance of their 119-98 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday night at Wells Fargo Center seemed lost on their star players.

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FOR THE RECORD:

Clippers: A subheadline in the March 28 Sports section about the Clippers' victory against the Philadelphia 76ers said the Clippers secured home court advantage in the first round of the NBA playoffs. They clinched a playoff berth on Friday but have not secured home court advantage.
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"We clinched tonight?" point guard Chris Paul asked reporters inquiring about the Clippers having secured a playoff berth. "I didn't know that."

Going to the playoffs is nothing new for these Clippers. They have qualified for the postseason for a fourth consecutive year for the first time in franchise history, eclipsing the three-year run of the Buffalo Braves from 1974 to 1976.

Making the Western Conference playoffs isn't the Clippers' ultimate goal, of course, though it was the only one Coach Doc Rivers said he set before the season.

"At that time you're thinking 10 teams could make it and only eight can go," Rivers said, "so you knew it was going to be a hard year, and it's been a hard year."

The Clippers (48-25) made things look easy against the 76ers, withstanding a few defensive lulls and another hack-a-DeAndre Jordan slowdown to win their sixth consecutive game. They maintained home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs with nine games left in the regular season.

Jordan finished with 20 rebounds and 17 points, just missing another 20-20 game largely because he made only five of 17 free throws.

Paul had 25 points and seven assists, part of a Clippers starting five that each scored in double figures before sitting out the fourth quarter for the second time on a three-game trip that ends Sunday in Boston.

Rookie center Nerlens Noel scored a career-high 30 points for the 76ers (18-55), who were essentially finished after being outscored, 32-14, in the third quarter.

Rivers joked before the game that merely sustaining playoff appearances would mean something to long-suffering broadcaster Ralph Lawler but not to a franchise that has developed greater aspirations.

"I think it shows that we're building something, and we are proud of that," Blake Griffin said of his team's run of getting into the playoffs. "It is cool to be a part of that, but at the same time, there hasn't been a whole lot of tradition here, so it's not something we should really hang our hat on."

As the longest-tenured Clipper with nearly seven full seasons on his resume, including three that ended short of the playoffs, Jordan said he appreciated the winning culture that has been established.

"My rookie year we went 19-63, so we were pretty terrible, just remembering those days," Jordan said. "Now, what we've accomplished and what we still want to accomplish is great to see."

The turnaround can be traced to Paul's arrival in December 2011, when he first teamed with Griffin and Jordan after being traded by the New Orleans Hornets.

Paul said the playoff appearances should be a prelude to bigger things, which might finally lead to champagne corks popping and T-shirts being handed out in the locker room.

"There's teams that get to the playoffs and consider it a successful year," Paul said. "For us, we're playing for more than that. We're playing for a bigger purpose."

ben.bolch@latimes.com

Twitter: @latbbolch

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