Clippers prepare for back-to-back games against playoff contenders
This is a week in which the Clippers can make a stand in their quest to qualify for the Western Conference playoffs.
They will face two formidable foes in back-to-back games against the Nuggets at Denver on Tuesday night and the Houston Rockets at Staples Center on Wednesday night, two combatants that are ahead of the Clippers in the crowded and super-tough West.
They will face the going-nowhere New York Knicks on Friday night at home, a sub-.500 team the Clippers need to defeat in order keep their playoff dreams from fading.
That’s just three of the 24 regular-season games the Clippers have left, but they are significant because of what they represent.
The march starts with the Clippers trailing the eighth-place Nuggets by one game for the final playoff berth in the West.
“I think up to this point, I think as this stretch goes on, it seems like each game is going to be bigger and bigger. So thus far, this is the biggest game of the year for us, is this Denver game,” Austin Rivers said. “And I’m sure next week we’re going to be talking about a different team, because these are teams that we’re fighting with for the playoffs.
“A lot of people are talking about the Rockets game, but they’re at the top of the West. We’re not going to catch the Rockets. We’re trying to catch the Nuggets, the Pelicans. These are teams that we are really trying to fight for and beat. So, this is a big game for us.”
The Clippers defeated the Nuggets once this season and face them again on April 7 at Staples Center during the last week of the regular season, giving the Clippers a chance to gain the upper hand over them if it comes down to a tiebreaker.
“At this point, every game is important,” Tobias Harris said. “We have to really lock in every single time we step on the floor at practice. Our preparation to the game is going to be key. It’s a very good team. They get up and down. They got a lot of young guys and they are playing well right now. So we really have to take it to them, especially on their court and really expect greatness from every single one of us.”
The Clippers will not be at full strength when they face the Nuggets.
Avery Bradley (sports hernia) is out and Danilo Gallinari (bruised hand) is questionable.
“We do have 24 games left, but not enough where you can just sit back and drop like two and three in a row,” Rivers said. “ … If you get two or three games behind, you can get in trouble.”
Clippers coach Doc Rivers said either Tyrone Wallace or C.J. Williams, both of whom are on two-way deals with the Agua Caliente Clippers of Ontario, will join the team in Denver on Tuesday night. Both Wallace and Williams have just two days left to play for the Clippers. Williams has fully recovered from a right ankle injury he suffered in January.
When: 7:30 p.m., Tuesday
On the air: TV: Prime Ticket, TNT; Radio: 570, 1330.
Update: Lou Williams has scored 15 or more points in 29 consecutive games, the second-longest active streak in the NBA behind Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo (47). Denver center Nikola Jokic is tied for third in the league with six triple-doubles. Jokic is averaging 17.2 points, 10.7 rebounds and 6.0 assists.
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