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Clippers’ road to the postseason is paved with playoff contenders and a tough trip

Back-to-back losses to two of the conference’s top teams landed the Clippers in a tough spot in the Wild West.

They had arrived in Houston on Thursday night in the seventh spot in the West. But after losing to the Rockets that night and to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday night, the Clippers fell to ninth place and no longer a playoff participant.

The Clippers have 14 regular-season games left to make a stand, each player knowing that winning or losing can change their fate in a matter of hours.

“It’s kind of the way it is,” Tobias Harris said late Friday night. “With that being said, at the end of the day, you’ve got to be mentally strong too and understand that you can’t look at where it’s at right now. You just got to handle your business and look ahead and just be ready for every single opponent and be ready to do what you have to do to control what you can control, really.

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“We can’t hang our head because maybe we fell a spot or something like that. It’s a long season. Obviously we’re winding down, but these game are all crucial and they all mean something.”

The Clippers lamented their inability to take care of the basketball against the Thunder, committing 23 turnovers.

“We don’t have time to point the finger. We don’t have time to even hang on this loss. It’s over. We got to go win Sunday,” Austin Rivers said Friday night. “We want to make this playoffs. It’s going to be tough, you know what I mean? I believe we’re going to make the playoffs. We can’t have the mental errors we had [Friday] night. It was a really tough back-to-back, but no sympathy. You got to deal with it.”

Rivers decided to take a positive view of the Clippers’ plight, saying if they win “two or three in a row, we’re right back in” the playoffs.

Next up is Sunday’s game at Staples Center against the Portland Trail Blazers, who have won 12 consecutive games after beating the Detroit Pistons on Saturday night.

“The thing is, though, our schedule doesn’t get any easier,” Rivers said. “We’ve got Portland and they’ve won, what, 11 in a row? That’s who we got next. You don’t want to get down three or four games, because then what happens is you’ve got 10 games left and you’re down four games. Those aren’t good odds.”

The Clippers head back on the road for four games after playing the Trail Blazers. There will be stops in Minnesota and Milwaukee for games on back-to-back nights as well as Indianapolis and Toronto. Each opponent is a playoff contender.

“As a competitor, as a basketball player, you want this type of challenge,” Harris said. “It’s going to push us as a team. These games are meaningful. We’ve got to be ready. We’re going to get their best and we’ve got to be ready to give our best every night.”

UP NEXT

VS PORTLAND

When: 7:30 p.m., Sunday

On the air: TV: Prime Ticket; Radio: 570, 1330.

Update: In 18 games with the Clippers, Harris is averaging 20.6 points, 3.1 assists and 6.9 rebounds. Between playing for Detroit and the Clippers, he is averaging a career-high 18.8 points and is shooting a career-best 41.4% from the three-point line.

broderick.turner@latimes.com

Twitter: @BA_Turner


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