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Clippers are at pivotal juncture heading into Game 5

On some level, the Clippers are at the crossroads.

The outcome of Game 5 in their first-round series against the Utah Jazz could determine how fast the Clippers might be headed in a certain direction in the NBA playoffs.

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A win Tuesday night in Staples Center would put the Clippers one step away from advancing to the second round.

A loss by the Clippers in a series that is tied at two victories apiece would put them on the brink of elimination with Game 6 at Salt Lake City on Friday night.

"It's 0-0 essentially," J.J. Redick said late Sunday night after a disappointing Clippers loss at Vivint Smart Home Arena. "Right now, it's a three-game series. We in a way accomplished what we had to accomplish in getting one back from our Game 1 loss. We have two of the next three at home. Game 5 is huge."

The Clippers at least will have another weapon to throw at the deep and talented Jazz.

Reserve guard Austin Rivers, who has been sidelined because of a strained left hamstring, has been cleared to play.

He had a good workout Sunday before Game 4 and another extensive session Monday at the Clippers' practice facility.

Rivers has sat out 10 games, all four against the Jazz and the last six of the regular season, since suffering the injury March 29 in a game against the Washington Wizards.

His playing time will be limited to about 20-25 minutes, coach Doc Rivers said Monday before a short practice.

"Yeah, I think he's going to play. At least that's what we think right now," Rivers said of his son. "The problem is they're going to put a severe minutes' restriction [on him]. At least we have another body. I don't look at him returning being what he was right before he left. If he's that, I'll be shocked. At least we have another warm body and that's nice."

Rivers' ability to penetrate and make plays caused problems for the Jazz during the regular season.

In four games against the Jazz, he averaged 15 points on 56.8% shooting, 50% on three-pointers.

But the coach said he didn't know what to expect from his son after a lengthy layoff.

"I would say if he gave us a couple of good minutes, I'm good with that," Doc said. "His dribble penetration has been huge for us this year and I don't even know if he can do that. But not trying to do too much of it, it's tough with your ball handling when you come back. So we'll see. At least we have him back. That's the way I look at it."

The Clippers also have the home-court advantage again after losing Game 1 in Staples Center.

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They won Games 2 and 3 at Salt Lake City.

Game 4 also appeared to be within the Clippers' reach before they faltered down the stretch.

"I think home court matters," Redick said. "I don't know that it necessarily makes a difference going down the stretch of a game, as Game 1 proved [for them] and Game 3 proved for us."

It was suggested to Doc Rivers that perhaps the intensity increases in each playoff game as the stakes rise.

But he wasn't buying it.

"It's no different," he said. "I always say the odd number games are the biggest games in the playoffs: Game 1, Game 3, Game 5, Game 7. The intensity should be the same in all of them.

"I've been in a lot of playoff series. I've always said literally if you won all four of the odd-number games, you win the playoffs if you just looked at it in those simple terms. Clearly you don't want to do that. But it's a fact."

Twitter: @BA_Turner

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