It doesn’t matter if the Clippers play a game or not, their potential playoff seeding is always shifting in the ever-revolving Western Conference playoff race.
The Clippers have maintained their goal is to qualify for the playoffs, first and foremost, and then prepare for whomever they have to meet.
“We just want to keep winning,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “Literally, our goal is to get in and keep winning and then someone will tell us who we’re playing. Then once it gets to that point … no, I don’t ever pick.”
If the playoffs were to start today, the Clippers would be seeded eighth and play the back-to-back NBA champion Golden State Warriors in the first round.
It would be a tall task for the Clippers to challenge the top-seeded Warriors, who have won three of the last four league titles.
But if the Clippers were to take on the Nuggets, who currently are second, in the first round, L.A. might have a better shot at an upset because Denver would be newbies in the postseason, having last qualified for the playoffs in 2013.
“Our key is getting in,” Rivers said. “Everyone is focused on that, honestly. I think I’m more focused on tomorrow and then the next game. I’ve said it all year: All the other stuff will happen if you do your job. And it won’t happen if you don’t or just can’t do your job. So, that’s all I focus on.
“And the all the other stuff, I guarantee you once it gets to that point, you guys [in the media] will tell us who we’re playing and then we’ll figure out the matchups from there. But we need to get there first.”
The Clippers are tied for seventh in the West with the San Antonio Spurs at 37-29. The teams split the regular season 2-2 but the Spurs have the advantage in the second tiebreaker with a 26-19 record in the conference. The Clippers are 24-20 against teams in the West.
The Clippers, who hold a four-game lead over the ninth-place Sacramento Kings, are just one game behind sixth-place Utah. The Jazz own the first tiebreaker after defeating the Clippers twice, with the teams meeting once more on April 10, the final day of the season.
The Clippers still have plenty of time to improve their playoff positioning with 16 games left in the regular season.
“You want to get to the playoffs, you want to get the best position that you can and then go from there,” Danilo Gallinari said. “But there is still a long season. There are still a lot of games to be played and a lot of teams fighting for different spots, so we just got to take it game by game.”
The Clippers have listed forwards Luc Mbah a Moute (left knee soreness) as out and Wilson Chandler (strained right quadriceps) as questionable for Friday night’s game against Oklahoma City at Staples Center.
“Luc didn’t make it” through Wednesday’s practice, Rivers said before the Clippers practiced Thursday. “He went a little bit and then had to pull himself out. We’ll see what he can do [Thursday].
“Wilson did make it, so we’ll see what he can do (Thursday) as well. It would be nice to get them both back obviously, or just one would be nice. I don’t know. I have no update if they are going to play tomorrow. But, Wilson actually looked pretty good when you look at all the time he missed. You could tell he’s back because all our stuff (offensive sets) he ran. It was like he had been playing, so that was probably the most positive part of it.”
VS. OKLAHOMA CITY
When: 7:30 p.m., Friday.
On Air: TV: Prime Ticket; Radio: 570, 1330.
Update: The Thunder will be playing the second of back-to-back games after playing at Golden State on Thursday night. The Thunder is second in the NBA in total rebounding (47.9 per game), first in offensive rebounding (12.3) and first in steals (9.9). Oklahoma City is third in the league in second-chance points (14.9).