They have been living on the brink for weeks and now the Clippers have reached the elimination stage. They have to win all three of their remaining games or their season is over.
“We got to play like we want to extend our season,” center DeAndre Jordan said. “We got to play like we want to have a postseason.”
The Clippers did not play that way Thursday night at Utah, falling behind by as many as 30 points in a 117-95 defeat.
Their third loss in four games left the Clippers in 10th place in the Western Conference and needing the help of other teams.
“We got a lot of guys in here who have a lot of pride and want to play for something that’s bigger than everybody in here,” Jordan said late Thursday night inside a quiet locker room. “We don’t have time to figure it out. We play every other day for the next three days.
“Every game counts. Tonight counted. We didn’t take advantage of it, but they did. Saturday we’ve got another opponent in the same position. So we got to figure out a way to bounce back on Saturday and take advantage of being at home.”
Fortunately for the Clippers, all three of their games are at home and two are against teams ahead of them that are still trying to secure a playoff berth.
The Clippers (42-37) will face the Denver Nuggets (44-35) on Saturday afternoon and the New Orleans Pelicans (45-34) on Monday night. The Clippers finish the season hosting the Lakers (34-44) on Wednesday night.
Coach Doc Rivers has just one goal for his team.
“Win ’em. That’s all I want to do. Let’s win the last three and see what happens,” he said Thursday. “This team has been resilient all year. They’ve played hard all year. They laid an egg tonight. It was disappointing, but we still have three games left.”
The Clippers, who were never in the game against the Jazz, can’t afford to have another lapse. If they do, their postseason streak will end at six consecutive seasons.
“We can’t play any worse than we did tonight as a unit,” Austin Rivers said Thursday. “At this point, man, we just got to hoop, man. I don’t know what else really to say.
“Now you put yourself in a position where you got to depend on someone else losing. But, we’re not out, by any means.”
Jordan and Tobias Harris were among the 35 players named to the USA Basketball national team pool of players. Jordan, who was on the gold medal-winning 2016 Olympic team, and Harris will join the rest of the group and new coach Gregg Popovich for a minicamp in Las Vegas from July 25-27. Twelve players will be selected to represent the U.S. if it qualifies for the 2019 Basketball World Cup and 2020 Olympics.
When: 12:30 p.m., Saturday
On the air: TV — Prime Ticket; Radio — 570, 1330.
Update: Nuggets center Nikola Jokic is 14th in the NBA in double-doubles with 35 and fourth in triple-doubles with eight. He’s averaging 18.2 points, 10.6 rebounds and 6.0 assists.