The Clippers know that their game against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Staples Center on Wednesday night is important.
“It’s a big game,” Blake Griffin said Tuesday before practice. “You can’t really dance around that. They are right in front of us. But at the same time, it’s still going to go up to another level in the playoffs. It’s not going to be quite like it is in the playoffs, but it will be an intense game.”
If the Clippers defeat the Thunder, Los Angeles still has a chance to move past Oklahoma City in the ultra-competitive Western Conference.
The Clippers (55-23) are the third seed in the West and were one game behind the Thunder (55-21), two games behind in the loss column, before the Thunder played at Sacramento on Tuesday night.
The Clippers have a 2-1 lead in the series against the Thunder and would own the tiebreaker with a victory Wednesday.
If the two teams complete the regular season with matching records, the Clippers would finish higher in the West and would also have the home-court advantage over the Thunder if they meet in the second round of the playoffs.
“It’s just fun to play against a good team like that, and I’m sure they feel the same way,” Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said. “But other than that, I don’t know if there is any more significance to it.
“If we win, what does that mean? If we lose, what does that mean? Does that mean we get to beat them in the playoffs if we win tomorrow? You just want to beat them and they want to beat you. I don’t think that changes. It’s just competition.”
With just four regular-season games left, Rivers has decided not to rest his players unless they are injured.
The Clippers had two days off before Wednesday’s game, have two days off again before they play Saturday, and then Sunday and Monday off before they play again Tuesday.
“We’re getting a lot of rest right now, anyway,” Rivers said. “So I don’t know if we’ll really have that issue as much. Now, if someone gets banged up to a point where I think they need the rest, then we’ll do that. But other than that, we get two days off between each game.”
Meanwhile, there is no timetable for the return of Jamal Crawford (sore left Achilles’ tendon) and Danny Granger (strained left hamstring).
Crawford has missed the last four games with his injury. Granger has missed the last five games.
“They are just not ready,” Rivers said. “They won’t play Wednesday and I don’t see Saturday, either, for either one. I just don’t see them getting healthy enough to play right now.”
Matt Barnes didn’t practice Tuesday because he was sick, but the Clippers said the starting small forward should be ready to play against the Thunder.