The Clippers’ road to the playoffs gets more difficult in a hurry this week
The Clippers’ competition during their road trip this week is about to become more difficult when they face the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder in back-to-back games.
Both of those teams are ranked in the top four in the tough and crowded Western Conference. The Rockets, whom the Clippers face Thursday night, have the best record in the NBA at 53-14. The Thunder, whom the Clippers face Friday night, have a 41-29 record.
The Clippers (37-29) are the seventh seed in the West, a tenuous spot since they are only percentage points ahead of Utah (38-30) and San Antonio (38-30) while 10th-place Denver (37-31) is one game behind them. The Clippers are only two games behind Oklahoma City.
“Every team we play, for the most part, has got a chance to make the playoffs or are in the playoffs,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said Tuesday night in Chicago after his team pulled out a 112-106 victory with a lackluster effort. “This should be a lot of fun. They should really enjoy this. This is why you’re in this, to be in the race, be in the hunt.
“Our guys, with all the stuff that’s going on with injuries and stuff, they still are in the race and they should be thrilled. But that shouldn’t be enough. They should want to get there, and get there. I think they can. But we’re just going to have to stay focused.”
The Rockets have one of the best offenses in the NBA. They are ranked second in the league in scoring, averaging 113.7 points a game.
They have the leading candidate for most valuable player in James Harden, who leads the league in scoring at 31.0 points a game. Harden is third in the league in assists (8.7) and former Clippers guard Chris Paul is fourth (8.1).
“These are funs times,” Clippers forward Tobias Harris said. “Every game is meaningful, but these are extremely meaningful games. You’re pushing yourself and you’re pushing yourself to the limit with the team. We expect a lot out of each other every single night.”
The Clippers have won three consecutive games and seven of their last 10.
Even though the Rockets and Thunder are two of the best teams in the league, Harris said there is only one way to approach both games.
“The approach is to win,” Harris said. “The approach is to go out there and compete every single night and go out there and collect wins. Obviously the margin of error is very slim, so we have to be ready at all times.”
The Clippers were not so ready to play the underwhelming Bulls on Tuesday night. The Clippers won the game, but it was a dud.
“I’m not worried about tonight carrying over,” Rivers said after the Bulls game. “That’s not who we’ve been. We’ll be ready for the next one.”
The Clippers made the signing of guard Sean Kilpatrick to a second 10-day contract official on Wednesday.
When: 5 p.m., Thursday
On the air: TV: Prime Ticket; Radio: 570, 1330.
Update: DeAndre Jordan is second in the NBA in field-goal percentage, making 64.9% of his shots. Rockets center Clint Capela leads the league in shooting (65.5%). The Rockets are first in the league in three-point attempts (42.2) and make (15.4) per game. They make 36.5% of their three-pointers, tied for 12th in the league.
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