A three-pointer taken Tuesday in Oklahoma City sent ripples across the NBA’s Western Conference and increased the likelihood the Clippers open the NBA playoffs in Oakland this weekend.
Paul George’s game-winning shot in the final seconds of the Thunder’s comeback victory over Houston — combined with Utah’s victory over Denver — nearly removed the possibility of Oklahoma City facing two-time defending champion Golden State in the first round while giving the Clippers the highest probability of facing the Warriors.
Some playoff possibilities became firm Tuesday. In the West, Portland is guaranteed first-round home-court advantage and Utah is now locked into the fifth seed. As the NBA enters the final day of its regular season, eight scenarios remain that will determine the conference’s sixth, seventh and eighth seeds. Five leave the Clippers opening against the Warriors.
To climb as high as seventh, the Clippers must beat Utah in the regular-season finale. Then one of three scenarios must also happen: San Antonio beats Dallas and Milwaukee beats Oklahoma City; both Dallas and Oklahoma City win; or Dallas and Milwaukee both win.
Clippers guard Landry Shamet and forward Danilo Gallinari said they have not paid attention to where their team could fall in the standings. They just want to break the team’s three-game losing streak.
“Obviously, everything changes once playoff time comes around,” Shamet said, “but we just want to get a win, kind of get primed for that playoff run, get that playoff mind-set going.”
Coach Doc Rivers was less concerned about whether Wednesday’s result will hold much bearing on his team’s playoff preparedness.
“Obviously, we want to win and we’ve always believed at home we should win, but if you don’t win, what does that mean?” Rivers said. “Does that mean we can’t play in the playoffs? You know? We get a spanking? I don’t know.
“But it’s a win we should have and it’s an important win. It’s an important game. And I like that it’s in that situation, I think that’s good for our guys. A lot of the guys have not been in win situations, is what I call them, so we’ll see how we respond to it.”
Clippers broadcaster Ralph Lawler will call the final regular-season game of his 40-year career with the team Wednesday and the team will celebrate with a bobblehead giveaway of the Hall of Fame play-by-play announcer and a halftime ceremony.
The Staples Center court will feature a logo honoring Lawler, whose career will continue for at least four more games during the postseason.
“Before the year, maybe even Ralph thought [Wednesday] would be his last game,” Rivers said. “And the fact that he’s going to be able to do more games, I think, is pretty cool and I think the players have given him one hell of a gift, and that’s the gift of extra games.”
The Clippers claimed Rodney McGruder off waivers Wednesday, four days after he was waived by Miami in a decision to shed his $1.5 million expiring salary and avoid paying the luxury tax.
The third-year guard with 112 career starts is ineligible for postseason play because he was waived after March 1 but the Clippers have his early Bird rights, which allow them to exceed the salary cap to sign the free agent-to-be. The team has until June 29 to submit a qualifying offer on an inexpensive deal for an experienced wing — a deal that could be all the more valuable if the team signs two free agents to maximum contracts, as could be possible.
When: 7:30 p.m., Wednesday
On the air: TV: Prime Ticket;Radio: 1150, 1330.