Twenty-six games remain in the Clippers’ regular season and coach Doc Rivers has already calculated how many he thinks his team needs to win in order to make the playoffs in the Western Conference.
“Yeah, I think we’ve got to win 25 of them,” Rivers said, smiling.
He was joking while also driving home a point. The West is so highly competitive that the Clippers can’t afford to drop too many games if they want to reach their eighth consecutive postseason.
They come out of the All-Star break with a record of 30-26 and start their stretch drive on Thursday against the Golden State Warriors in Oakland.
The Clippers won five of their last six games before the break and are just a half-game behind the New Orleans Pelicans for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West.
And several more teams are within reach, with just 3 1/2 games separating the Clippers from the San Antonio Spurs and Minnesota Timberwolves, who are tied for third.
The Clippers are 1 1/2 games behind the fifth-place Oklahoma City Thunder, and one game behind both the Denver Nuggets and Portland Trailblazers.
“A lot of teams are playing well right now, playing well going into the break,” Rivers said. “So, it’s going to come down to teams playing well coming out of the break and taking care of business.”
The Clippers come out of the break with three consecutive road games. After playing the defending NBA champions on Thursday, the Clippers travel to Phoenix to face the Suns on Friday night, then play at Denver on Tuesday.
Playing through a series of injuries has left the team in survival mode much of the season.
“We just have to win every game and that’s got to be your mindset,” Rivers said. “You know you’re not going to win every game, but you got to have that mindset that you got to win every game.”
The team still has health issues.
Guard Avery Bradley has a groin injury and is questionable for the game against the Warriors.
Rivers said Bradley would be dealing with his injury for the rest of the season, but would “hopefully get to a point where we can play him every night.”
Even Tuesday, after several days of rest, Bradley “was completely sore,” the coach said. “We didn’t let him finish the practice. “Right now, it’s probably 50-50 every night if he plays.”
Like they have all season, the Clippers will push forward, because in addition to the teams right in front of them, they have another right behind.
The 10th-place Utah Jazz took a 10-game winning streak into the break and are just 1 1/2 games back.
“Every game is going to matter, and we’re going to need every single game,” Clippers forward Tobias Harris said. “We’ve got to be really gritty and be able to go out every single night.
“We’ve got the guys in the locker room that can do it. So, I’m excited for that.”
AT GOLDEN STATE
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday
On the air: TV: TNT; Radio: 570, 1330
Update: The Warriors, with four All-Stars — Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson — lead the NBA in scoring, averaging 115.8 points per game. They are first in field-goal percentage (51.0%) and assists (30.5).