NEW ORLEANS — The Clippers know how high the stakes will be when they face Memphis on Saturday, something Blake Griffin said he and Chris Paul and the rest of their teammates couldn’t help but address in the locker room recently.
By no means are the Clippers looking past the New Orleans Hornets at the start of their two-game trip on Friday night. It’s just that the Clippers’ game against the Grizzlies carries all the weight.
When the Clippers and Grizzlies meet at the FedEx Forum, the outcome could determine who has the home-court advantage if these two teams continue to stay on course as first-round playoff foes.
“We were talking about how in the West that literally no team is locked in and knows exactly where they are going to be,” Griffin said. “There are teams that know they are in the playoffs. But we’ll know more on Saturday what’s at stake.”
The Clippers (52-26) are the fourth-seeded team in the Western Conference because they have won the Pacific Division.
But they’re one game behind the fifth-seeded Grizzlies (53-25), and the Clippers will start the playoffs in Memphis if the Grizzlies have the better overall record.
“We want to finish strong,” Paul said. “Obviously, we want to win every game. But with our team, it’s not necessarily about wins and losses right now. It’s about playing the right way and to not back into the playoffs.”
If the Clippers win their last four regular-season games, they will have the home-court advantage if they meet the Grizzlies in the first round of the playoffs.
“To us, we have the type of team that we understand home court would be nice,” Paul said. “But it’s not the end of the world.”
Both teams will have played the night before when they meet Saturday night.
The Clippers play at New Orleans on Friday night and the Grizzlies play at Houston.
“They are all big games,” Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro said. “That one in Memphis has a little bit more significance just because that’s the team, as of right now, it looks like we’ll be facing. So of course we’d love to have home court, but you have to earn it. We have to focus in on New Orleans so we can put ourselves in that position on that Saturday night game where hopefully it’ll have an impact either way.”
Without complaint, Willie Green goes about his business and fills his role.
Green has been asked to be the starting shooting guard with Chauncey Billups expected to miss his seventh consecutive game Friday because of a strained right groin.
This season, Green has started 58 games — and played in 69 — and he is averaging 6.3 points on 46.2% shooting, 43% from three-point range.
“Willie has been great,” Del Negro said. “We’ve been saying Chauncey is going to come back for a while now. Hopefully he’ll get back here soon. Willie, like I said, has been a complete pro. When his number is called, he’s ready to go.”