As perplexed as the Clippers were late Friday night by their lackluster effort against the Portland Trail Blazers, they maintained a measure of hope.
That’s because the loss did not shatter the Clippers’ postseason dreams, but time is running down on them to make their bid for a spot in the Western Conference playoffs.
They are within reach of the playoffs, holding the ninth spot that has left the Clippers two games behind the seventh-place Utah Jazz and eighth-place New Orleans Pelicans.
But the Clippers also have the Denver Nuggets on their heels, both of them owning identical records of 41-35.
“We’re right there. Nothing has changed,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said after Friday night’s disjointed loss in Portland. “We lost a game tonight. But we’ve got teams that are right in front of us that we’re playing. It’s on us. We have a chance to make the playoffs and it’s in our hands. And I would rather not have it any other way.”
Rivers then paused for a few seconds, thinking over his last statement.
“Well, I would,” he said. “I would like to be in the playoffs already. Listen, it’s right in front of us. It depends on how mentally tough we are. We got to play well. Sometimes you show up and don’t play well. There’s nothing you can do about that. But I didn’t think that was the case tonight. Portland was just the better team.”
It does not get any easier for the Clippers in their next game.
They will face an Indiana Pacers team Sunday afternoon at Staples Center that is in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, but is only half a game behind the fourth-place Philadelphia 76ers. Both seek that fourth seed and the home-court advantage that comes with it in the first round.
“We’ve got to come out with the right mindset and intensity and effort and focus on both ends of the floor,” DeAndre Jordan said. “And it’s got to be for 48 minutes. I keep saying that. We’ve got to be locked into the game plan and into the personnel out there. We’ve got to play hard
“That’s not on Doc. That’s on us. We’ve got to figure out a way to make things work, and that goes for Lou [Williams] to myself to Sam [Dekker] to Boban [Marjanovic] to whoever is out there. If you’re a scorer and you’re not scoring, you got to find a way to be effective out there. If you’re a defender and you’re not, you got to find a way to be effective out there in order to help us win. We all got to figure out a way to figure out these games.”
When: Sunday, 12:30 p.m., Staples Center.
On the air: TV: Prime Ticket; Radio: 570, 1330.
Update: The Clippers turned the ball over three consecutive times in the final minutes of a 109-104 loss to the Pacers when the two teams played March 23 in Indianapolis. The Pacers are one of the NBA’s top defensive teams, limiting opponents to 103.9 points per game, the seventh-best mark in the league.