What to watch: Clippers-Nuggets

April, 18, 2012
4/18/12
10:58
AM PT
Clippers (38-23) vs. Denver Nuggets (34-27) at Pepsi Center, 6 p.m. PT

Five storylines to track:

1. Playoff time: The Clippers clinched a playoff berth Monday night even before they beat the Oklahoma City Thunder. It's the Clippers first playoff trip since the 2005-06 season, officially ending the second-longest active playoff drought in the NBA. The Clippers were won a playoff series against the Denver Nuggets in 2006 before they were knocked out by the Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference semifinals in seven games. That was their only postseason series win since moving to Los Angeles in 1984, and the second in franchise history. This will be their fifth playoff appearance since 1976, when they were the Buffalo Braves.

2. Rarefied air: The Clippers are 15 games over .500 (38-23) this season. It's the third time the Clippers have been more than five games over .500 this many games into a season since moving to L.A. They finished the season eight games over .500 in 1991-92 and 12 games over .500 in 2005-06. The Clippers already surpassed their victory total from last season on April 5, and their 38 wins are the most for the club since winning 40 in 2006-07. The Clippers' 38-23 record this season after 61 games is the second-best in franchise history, trailing the 1974-75 Buffalo Braves, who were 39-22 after 61 games.



3. On the road again: The Clippers close out the season by playing four of their last five games on the road, including two sets of road back to backs. This season the Clippers are 15-14 (.517) on the road. The Clippers are attempting to finish the season with a .500 or better road record for the first time since moving to L.A. The most road wins for the L.A. Clippers was 20 when they went 20-21 in 2005-06. The Clippers rank third in the league in road attendance, just behind the Miami Heat and the Lakers.

4. Hot team: Since March 24, the Clippers have won 12 of their last 14, which equals the San Antonio Spurs for the best record in the NBA during that stretch. The Clippers earned their most recent win against the Oklahoma City Thunder, 92-77. It was the Clippers' 18th win this season against a team in playoff position, which puts the Clippers in the top five in the league with wins against such teams. The Clippers’ current winning percentage (.626) would easily be the best in franchise history, surpassing the Buffalo Braves, which finished with a .598 winning percentage during the 1974-75 season.

5. Comeback team: The Clippers came back from an 11-point deficit on Monday night to beat Oklahoma City. It was the 12th victory for the Clippers this season when they have been trailing by double-figures, which is one of the best records in the league. The biggest difference during the Clippers' recent winning streak has been their defense. They held Oklahoma City to a season-low 77 points and held the trio of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Thabo Sefolosha to just five points in the second half and scoreless in the third quarter. The Clippers are one of the top teams this season when allowing 95 or fewer points. The Clippers are one of the top five teams this season when allowing 95 or fewer points with a 26-5 record.

Arash Markazi

ESPNLosAngeles.com

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