Clippers must win remaining five games and hope playoff spot falls their way
Consecutive losses over the weekend might have sounded the death knell on the Clippers’ playoff hopes.
With five games remaining in a regular season marred by injuries, the Clippers no longer control their destiny after setbacks against the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday night at Portland and the Indiana Pacers on Sunday at Staples Center.
The Clippers can keep alive their dream of reaching the Western Conference playoffs for the seventh consecutive season by winning all five games.
But every calculation shows that the teams ahead of them have to lose games in order for the Clippers’ faint chances to be realized.
“We’re still in it,” coach Doc Rivers said. “Obviously each time you lose you lessen your chances. We virtually have to win out, would be my guess. But again, you don’t even know that. But for us, we’ve just got to keep playing.”
The consecutive losses dropped the Clippers to 10th in the West and left them with a number of hurdles to clear.
They are three games behind the sixth-place Utah Jazz, 2½ behind the seventh-place Minnesota Timberwolves, two behind the eighth-place New Orleans Pelicans and one behind the ninth-place Denver Nuggets.
“We got to go five for five,” Austin Rivers said. “But if we go five for five and the other teams go four for five, we don’t get in. But we are in control of our own as a whole this season. We’ve dropped games. We’ve lost games.
The positive for the Clipper is that they face four of the teams ahead of them in the standings.
The negative, however, is that those teams have a lot at stake too.
That’s what makes these games so challenging.
The Clippers play the fourth-place San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday night at Staples Center. The Spurs are trying to finish ahead of the fifth-place Oklahoma City Thunder and secure home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
The Clippers play at Utah on Thursday night. The Jazz are trying to lock down a playoff spot and hold a half-game lead over the Timberwolves.
The Clippers host to the Nuggets on Saturday. Denver is vying for one of the final playoff positions.
The Clippers then play the Pelicans at Staples Center on Monday. New Orleans has a one-game lead over the Nuggets and is playing to keep its playoff spot.
The Clippers finish the regular season as the home team against the Lakers on April 11.
“It’s good that we get to play the guys that are ahead of us,” Austin Rivers said. “If we didn’t play them, it would be worse. But the fact is that we have an opportunity to give those team one of those losses. That’s big. And some of these teams play each other as well. If a team losses to us and someone else, then we’re in. But we’ve got to do our part.”
They’ve had 11 players sit out a combined total of 243 games because of injuries.
Because of the injuries, they’ve utilized 33 starting lineups.
Backup point guard Jawun Evans will soon have surgery for a sports hernia.
“They just drop like flies around here,” Doc Rivers said, shaking his head.
Yet, DeAndre Jordan wants his teammates to embrace the challenge.
He talked about the trades that sent Blake Griffin to the Detroit Pistons, Chris Paul to the Houston Rockets and Jamal Crawford to the Atlanta Hawks (before signing with the Timberwolves) and J.J. Redick’s signing with the Philadelphia 76ers as a free agent. All had been Clippers mainstays.
They’re all gone, but Jordan said the Clippers are still standing.
“I think we should enjoy this,” he said. “Nobody expects us to do anything. Nobody expected us to make playoffs after the summer. Nobody expected us to make the playoffs after the trade we made in February. But the guys in this locker room, we’re extremely optimistic and we’re positive about the team that we have. We’re going to back each other up 150% and we’re going to try to extend our season.”
CLIPPERS VS SAN ANTONIO SPURS
When: Tuesday, 7:30 p.m. PDT.
On the air: TV: TNT; Radio: 570, 1330.
Update: Lou Williams has scored 20-plus points as a reserve 36 times, the most in a single season by any active NBA player. The Spurs average only 102.5 points a game, which ranks 27th in the league. But they give up only 99.2, which ranks first. Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (quadriceps) is sidelined.
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