Los Angeles Clippers: Jamal Crawford

How C.J. Wilcox fits the Clippers

June, 27, 2014
Jun 27
PLAYA VISTA, Calif. -- In a bold and surprising move, the Los Angeles Clippers selected Washington shooting guard C.J. Wilcox with the 28th pick of the 2014 NBA draft.

The decision raised some eyebrows because the Clippers already have shooting guards J.J. Redick, Jamal Crawford and Reggie Bullock under contract and needed help at other positions, particularly in the frontcourt.

[+] EnlargeCJ Wilcox
Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY SportsThe Clippers wanted to take the best player available and weren't focused on position needs when they drafted C.J. Wilcox.
Darren Collison (point guard), Danny Granger (small forward), Hedo Turkoglu (power forward) and Glen Davis (forward/center) are all entering free agency on July 1, and the rest of the bench is barren -- except at shooting guard, where the Clippers also have a team option on Willie Green.

According to head coach and president of basketball operations Doc Rivers, the team wasn’t concerned with finding a player that fit positionally, and they instead focused on finding the best player available.

“C.J. is a great shooter and I value shooting,” Rivers said. “You know, when you're at [No.] 28, I don't think you can afford to pick [for] what needs you have. I have never thought that.

“We have Jamal and J.J., but [Wilcox is] the best player, and I think you can always make it work when you can get the best player. I thought as far as for shooting, in this league, you need it, you can never have enough of it, and I'm a big believer in it. I thought he may have been the best shooter in the draft, if not No. 1, No. 2.”

It’s not difficult to see Rivers’ rationale. Wilcox averaged 18.5 points per game and posted a 60 percent true shooting number last season. He’s certainly one of the best marksmen in the draft, shooting 39.1 percent on 7.2 3-point attempts per game. Already an elite spot-up shooter (he shot 43 percent on spot-up jumpers last season), he has the ability to pop out or curl off screens into open space and also pull up out of pick-and-rolls. He elevates nicely on his jumper and has a quick release and deep range.

For a team that ranked just 22nd in 3-point shooting percentage, Wilcox is a smart and useful addition. He is somewhat of a one-trick pony offensively, though he does his one trick exceptionally well. He isn’t much of a slasher -- 72.1 percent of his shots were jumpers last season, and 52.9 percent of his shots were 3-pointers -- as evidenced by his 4.1 free-throw attempts per 40 minutes, a below-average mark for a scorer of his stature.

Wilcox improved as a ball handler over the course of his NCAA career, and though he can’t create his own shot reliably or facilitate much, he takes advantage of unsuspecting defenders and lazy closeouts to penetrate into the paint. His 37.5-inch vertical gives him sneaky explosion, providing him with an edge when finishing at the rim in transition and half-court settings.

Though only 6-foot-5, he has a 6-foot-10 wingspan, implying he can defend small forwards at first glance. However, his thin frame holds him back. He’s easily overpowered when bigger wings drive or post up, and he can’t hold his own on the glass. Unless he bulks up another 10-15 pounds, Wilcox will probably only be able to defend 2-guards. He can feel asleep and lose his man occasionally, but on balance, he’s a solid defender who uses his length properly (he averaged 1.0 block and 1.0 steal).

In a conference call with reporters at the Clippers' training facility Thursday night, Wilcox compared his game to Danny Green, Ray Allen and Richard Hamilton. Green is the most realistic comparison, as he’s a 3-and-D specialist. Rivers was hesitant to praise Wilcox’s defense prematurely, as he said there’s a steep learning curve for all rookies defensively, but he sees his value as a two-way player.

“He’s long, he’s athletic, and it’s rare when you get a shooter like that, not only he’s a catch-and-shoot guy, too, that wants to defend. That’s a great combination,” Rivers said. “Like most of the time you get a shooter but [he] can’t defend or a shooter but [he’s] not athletic. We have a great shooter who can defend and is athletic, so I thought that was important.”

In many ways, Wilcox is a carbon copy of Bullock, who was selected with the No. 25 pick in last season’s draft.

Both projected as spot-up shooters with limited ball-handling and shot-creation skills. Neither was a stout defender in college, but both were average to slightly above-average because of their relative length. The issue, when comparing the two, is that Wilcox isn’t as good of a shooter as Bullock in college, is smaller in both height and weight, and is older by a few months.

Age is the main concern with Wilcox. He’s 23 and will turn 24 in December. Optimists will say he is more experienced and ready to contribute right away. Pessimists, however, will point to the fact that prospects that old rarely see significant improvement and that his ceiling isn’t much higher than his current ability. Wilcox disagrees.

“I come in with a different approach and a different understanding of how things work sometimes -- not always getting what you want,” Wilcox said. “I had to work from the bottom to the top. That's kind of always how I've been. Even though I'm 23, I feel like my game can expand in so many ways.”

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Rapid Reaction: Thunder 105, Clippers 104

May, 13, 2014
May 13
OKLAHOMA CITY -- The Clippers knew they got away with one during Sunday’s Game 4 in Los Angeles. As they walked around their Staples Center locker room after coming back from 22 points down early and 16 points down with nine minutes left, they knew they had stolen a game and perhaps saved their playoff lives.

But they weren't satisfied with just tying the series. The message from the coaching staff was simple: Steal another one in Oklahoma and put yourselves in a position to close out the series back home.

It looked as the Clippers were about to do exactly that for much of Tuesday's Game 5 ... before the Oklahoma City Thunder repaid the Clippers with a comeback that was just as improbable in a 105-104 win.

With the Clippers leading 104-97 with 44 seconds left, the Thunder closed with an 8-0 run, including three free throws by Russell Westbrook to clinch the win and take a 3-2 series lead.

How it happened: After sleepwalking through the first quarter of Sunday's game, falling behind by 22 points nine minutes in, the Clippers took a 15-point lead in the first quarter Tuesday and controlled the tempo and pace for most of the game, despite having multiple players in early foul trouble. The Clippers never trailed in the second half until the final seconds, when Westbrook's free throw put the Thunder ahead for good.

What it means: The Thunder have taken a 3-2 series lead and can clinch the series with a win Thursday in Los Angeles.

Hits: Blake Griffin had his first double-double of this season's playoffs, finishing with 24 points and 17 rebounds. Chris Paul had 17 points and 14 assists, Matt Barnes posted 16 points and 10 rebounds, Jamal Crawford tallied 19 points off the bench and J.J. Redick scored 16.

Misses: After being the star of Game 4 with 12 points in the fourth quarter, Darren Collison had only one point in 10 minutes Tuesday and was a team-worst minus-15 while on the court. Meanwhile, Paul had a game-high five turnovers.

Stat of the game: The Thunder outscored the Clippers on points in the paint (44-22) and had the Clippers' big men in foul trouble for most of the game.

Up next: The Clippers will play host to the Thunder in Game 6 at 7:30 PT Thursday night at Staples Center, as L.A. looks to stay alive in the series.

Rapid Reaction: Thunder 118, Clippers 112

May, 9, 2014
May 9

LOS ANGELES -- After two lopsided games for both teams to start the series, the Los Angeles Clippers and Oklahoma City Thunder were due for a close game that would finally live up to the hype preceding this series.

That’s exactly what happened Friday, as the Thunder took a 2-1 series lead with a 118-112 win over the Clippers.

In a game that saw 13 ties and 19 lead changes, the Thunder were able to pull away late and take control of the game and the series, thanks to Kevin Durant’s 36 points and Russell Westbrook’s near triple-double of 23 points, 13 assists and eight rebounds.

How it happened: It was a seesaw game for most of the night with exchanging leads as the stars played like it for most of the evening. While Durant and Westbrook will get the headlines, the Thunder are at their best when their role players have big nights; and they did Friday. Serge Ibaka scored 20 points, Reggie Jackson posted 14 points and former Clipper Caron Butler also had 14.

What it means: The Thunder have taken a 2-1 series lead and can take a commanding 3-1 lead Sunday before the series returns back to Oklahoma City.

Hits: Chris Paul had 21 points and 16 assists and was far more aggressive than he was in Game 2 -- but still not what he was in the Game 1. Blake Griffin had his best game of the series, finishing with 34 points, eight rebounds and four assists. Matt Barnes had 14 points, and Jamal Crawford, fresh off his Sixth Man of the Year award, had 20 points.

Misses: After playing well in the first two games of the series, J.J. Redick was a nonfactor in Game 3, finishing with three points after missing his first five shots and going 1-for-6 from the field. Glen Davis also was a liability when he was on the court, finishing with two points and with plus/minus of minus-12.

Stat of the game: The Thunder had the advantage in points in the paint (52-48), rebounding (44-33) and fast-break points (19-14). Throughout most of the game, Oklahoma City held the advantage when it came to hustle plays and 50-50 balls.

Up next: The Clippers will take on the Thunder in Game 4 of their second-round series at 12:30 p.m. PT on Sunday in Los Angeles.

OKLAHOMA CITY -- The Los Angeles Clippers came into Oklahoma City looking to steal one game and home-court advantage. After doing that Monday night, the Clippers were looking for something more on Wednesday night that would never materialize.

The Oklahoma City Thunder avoided dropping their first two home games to the Clippers and tied up their second-round playoff series at 1-1 after claiming a 112-101 victory.

Kevin Durant, who was presented with the MVP trophy before the game by NBA commissioner Adam Silver, scored 17 points in the first quarter as the Thunder took an 11-point lead. Although the Clippers would come back, the Thunder controlled the game for the most part, going up by as many as 20 points, and Durant finished with 32 points. Russell Westbrook had 31 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists for his third triple-double in his past five playoff games.

How it happened: The Thunder came out firing after Durant was given the MVP trophy and a standing ovation by the sellout crowd at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Durant's big quarter had the Thunder up by 11 points early. The Clippers stormed back to take a four-point lead, but the Thunder came right back and were up by as many as 20 points in the third quarter and never trailed again.

What it means: The Clippers and Thunder are now tied 1-1 after two games in their second-round series, with the next two games taking place in Los Angeles on Friday and Sunday.

Hits: Chris Paul had 17 points and 11 assists but wasn't as aggressive as he was in Game 1, when he had 32 points and eight 3-pointers. Paul shot only 6-of-13 from the field and 2-of-5 from beyond the arc. J.J. Redick was solid, scoring a team-high 18 points and hitting 7 of 10 shots from the field and 2 of 4 on 3-pointers. Matt Barnes had 11 points, and Darren Collison and Glen Davis combined for 23 points off the bench.

Misses: Blake Griffin finished third in MVP voting this season and will need to play like the third-best player in the league for the Clippers to have chance in this series. On Wednesday, he was nonexistent early and finished with 15 points on 5-of-13 shooting to go along with six rebounds and two turnovers. Jamal Crawford also didn't play up to his sixth-man-of-the-year status, finishing with seven points on 2-of-13 shooting and hitting only 1 of 7 from beyond the arc.

Stat of the game: After going 4-for-6 from beyond the arc in the first quarter, the Clippers went 5-for-21 over the final three quarters from long range.

Up next: The Clippers will take on the Thunder in Game 3 on Friday night at Staples Center.

Clippers ready to face Thunder

May, 4, 2014
May 4
LOS ANGELES -- When the Los Angeles Clippers returned to their locker room after defeating the Golden State Warriors late Saturday night to advance to the Western Conference semifinals, they were greeted with a spiral-bound scouting report of the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Clippers didn't have much time to soak up Saturday's win and recover from a difficult week on and off the court before boarding a flight to Oklahoma City on Sunday.

[+] EnlargeChris Paul
Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesChris Paul survived a seven-game series against the Warriors, but his nagging injuries figure to linger in the next round.
"We've already passed the books out," Rivers said shortly after the game. "They have the Oklahoma books in their lockers. I asked them to go home and read tonight. That's their homework."

The Clippers and Thunder split their four-game season series with both teams claiming a win at home and on the road. The Clippers' win in Oklahoma City in February helped jump-start an 11-game winning streak before they added veterans Glen Davis and Danny Granger after the trade deadline.

Rivers says he believes the keys in this series are to limit turnovers -- something the Clippers failed to do against Golden State as they turned the ball over an average of 14 times per game -- and make life difficult for the soon-to-be MVP Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.

"You can't turn the ball over against Oklahoma," Rivers said. "You turn the ball over against Oklahoma, it's almost a guaranteed two, and with Durant it's a three. They're terrific at offensive rebounding. They have length. I think Westbrook is one of the best rebounding guards in our league, so we have to control that. You have to make Durant's baskets hard. He's going to score.

"We already know that, but we don't want him to get easy scores. We want to make it as difficult as possible."

Chris Paul's injured right hamstring and right thumb is expected to continue to be an issue, but it didn't prevent him from having 22 points, 14 assists and four steals in 42 minutes on Saturday in Game 7. There were several times during the game when Rivers wanted to take Paul out, but Paul continued to tell his coach that he was able to play.

"He really showed what he's made of," Rivers said. "Just the character he has. I thought his leadership and his will helped the entire team because they know what he's going through. To give that performance on that stage was huge for us."

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LOS ANGELES -- The longest week in Los Angeles Clippers history ended Saturday, but their season will go on.

Playing in their first-ever playoff Game 7 at home, the Clippers defeated the Golden State Warriors 126-121 to win their first-round playoff series and advance to the second round for only the third time since 1976.

Doc Rivers still hates to talk about the last time he was involved in a Game 7 at Staples Center.

It was the 2010 NBA Finals and his Boston Celtics blew a fourth-quarter lead to the Los Angeles Lakers that cost him a chance to win his second title in three years with the Celtics.

On Saturday, Rivers was back in Staples Center for a Game 7 and was happy to not look up at a reminder of his result from four years ago as the Lakers' championship banners have been covered by oversized photos of Clippers players for Clippers home games this season.

"Thank god, we don't have to see those banners tonight," Rivers said. "That's probably why I hung those other things so if we do have a Game 7, I'm not reminded."

Rivers will now have new Game 7 memories that will help push the past aside, such as Blake Griffin bull-rushing his way toward the basket and turning a somersault after an acrobatic layup and foul, DeAndre Jordan dunking another lob from Griffin and, well, the memory of himself pumping his fist and giving high-fives to everyone in sight after the longest week of his professional career.

Nothing can take the place of winning a championship, but after Saturday's win, the Clippers took the first big step toward doing just that.

How it happened: The Clippers looked sluggish early as the Warriors could not miss from the field. Golden State jumped out to a 10-point lead in the first quarter and pushed it to 12 in the second quarter. The Warriors shot 72 percent from the field in the first quarter and were close to 60 percent in the half. The Clippers, however, continued to stay in the game and finally made a push in the third quarter, going up by eight points thanks to 10 points from J.J. Redick in the period. But this game was destined to go down to the end as the Clippers and Warriors exchanged baskets and the lead before the Clippers finally pulled away in the end.

What it means: The Clippers have won the series. They advance to the second round for only the third time in team history.

Hits: On a night when they needed it most, the Clippers got one of their more balanced scoring games of the season. Six players, including all five starters, scored at least 13 points. Griffin had 24 points, 6 assists and 5 rebounds, and Jamal Crawford came off the bench and scored 22 points. Chris Paul had 22 points and 14 assists, and Jordan had 15 points and 18 rebounds. Redick had 20 points, including two late free throws that helped seal the win.

Misses: No real misses, but the Clippers were hoping to get more from Danny Granger and Glen Davis in the postseason, and on Saturday they combined to go 1-of-5 for only two points.

Stat of the game: The Clippers had 62 points in the paint compared to 38 for the Warriors.

Up next: The Clippers will take on the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 1 of their second-round series, which begins Monday night in Oklahoma City.

Rapid Reaction: Warriors 100, Clippers 99

May, 1, 2014
May 1

OAKLAND, Calif. -- The smiles had returned to the faces of the Los Angeles Clippers' players by the time they took the court at the Olympic Club in San Francisco on Thursday morning before playing Game 6 of their first-round series against the Golden State Warriors.

All the talk of the past week regarding racist comments made by Clippers owner Donald Sterling and his subsequent lifetime ban from the NBA had been washed away and replaced by the jokes and the usual teasing that had come to define the team this season.

“They're in a better spirit, there's no doubt,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “They're actually joking again. They're making jokes about their coach again. I think that's good.”

The focus for the first time since Friday was again on basketball, which was a good thing for the players on the court, even if the action on the court didn’t always look playoff-worthy.

The good feelings the Clippers had pregame, however, were long gone by the end of the game, as Blake Griffin and J.J. Redick fouled out as the Clippers lost to the Warriors 100-99 to force a Game 7.

How it happened: The Clippers jumped out quickly to a nine-point lead, but it was erased in the next stanza by the Warriors, who took an eight-point lead by the second quarter. It was a back-and-forth game through three quarters that saw eight ties and five lead changes before the Warriors took control in the fourth. The Warriors never trailed in the final period but had to escape in the end as the Clippers made a late push.

What it means: This series, like many expected before it began, will go seven games, with the decisive Game 7 taking place on Saturday in Los Angeles.

Hits: On a night when Griffin, Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan struggled offensively, the Clippers were kept in the game largely by Matt Barnes and Redick, who combined for 33 points. The "Big Three" of Griffin, Paul and Jordan, meanwhile, posted 36 points between them. Jamal Crawford and Darren Collison had 31 combined points off the bench. Though Jordan struggled on offense, he did have 19 rebounds and four blocks.

Misses: Paul was battling injuries to his left hamstring and hand while in foul trouble (five). Griffin was in trouble early and fouled out for the second time this series. When those two players struggle, the Clippers always will have a hard time pulling out a win, especially in a close-out game on the road.

Stat of the game: For the second time this series, the referees controlled the flow, as 52 fouls were called and 70 foul shots were taken. That’s never a good recipe for pretty basketball.

Up next: The Clippers will take on the Warriors in Game 7 of their first-round series at 7:30 p.m. PT Saturday at Staples Center.

Rapid Reaction: Clippers 113, Warriors 103

April, 29, 2014
Apr 29
LOS ANGELES -- Doc Rivers wasn't sure what kind of crowd response the Los Angeles Clippers would get when they returned home for Game 5 of their first-round series against the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday.

But after Clippers owner Donald Sterling was banned for life by the NBA in response to racist comments the league says he made in a recorded conversation, Rivers' fears about the crowd reaction and, more important, the future of the team were calmed.

"I do believe this will be a safe haven for us and our crowd will be amazing tonight. I think that will help them," Rivers said before the game. "The 14 guys that we dress, they did nothing wrong and they need support and I think that will happen."

Clippers fans not only came out to support the team, Staples Center was sold out as fans came to the game wearing black shirts and chanting, "We are one!" throughout the night.

While very little advance focus was paid to the game, the Clippers finally had something to celebrate after a tumultuous 72 hours. The Clippers beat the Warriors 113-103 to take a 3-2 series lead. They can close out the series on Thursday in Oakland.

How it happened: The Clippers fed off the energy of their faithful early in the game, going up by 11 points in the first quarter and 13 points in the second quarter and controlling the tempo. All this despite Chris Paul and Blake Griffin combining for only 13 points on 3-of-16 shooting in the first half. The Warriors came back in the third quarter and took the lead before the Clippers finally pulled away in the fourth quarter for the win.

What it means: The Clippers have the Warriors on the brink. If they don’t eliminate Golden State on Thursday, Game 7 would be Saturday night in Los Angeles.

Hits: On a night when Griffin and Paul struggled to get going, DeAndre Jordan was the unlikely offensive force, scoring a postseason career high of 25 points, grabbing 18 rebounds and getting four blocked shots. Paul finished the game with 20 points and seven assists, and Griffin had 18 points and seven rebounds. Jamal Crawford and Darren Collison combined for 34 points off the bench.

Misses: No big concerns on the night, but J.J. Redick was 0-for-3 from beyond the arc and finished with only six points on 3-of-8 shooting. The Clippers also lost Hedo Turkoglu for the game and maybe the series because of a lower back contusion in the third quarter.

Stat of the game: 19,657. After much talk about the attendance for the game, the Clippers recorded their 138th consecutive sellout ... and it was as loud as it has ever been at Staples Center.

Up next: The Clippers will take on the Warriors in Game 6 of their first-round series on Thursday at Oracle Arena.

Rapid Reaction: Clippers 98, Warriors 96

April, 24, 2014
Apr 24
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Doc Rivers didn't want to hear about the home-court advantage the Golden State Warriors had at Oracle Arena before Thursday's Game 3.

Matt Barnes, who played for the Warriors, said he would talk to his teammates about the atmosphere and Rivers almost rolled his eyes when he was asked if Barnes did in fact address the team before the game.

"I have no idea," Rivers said. "I don't believe in all that crap anyway. It's just talk. It doesn't matter. You can tell me something, but you have to experience [it]. It's all white noise, and you go out and play."

The Los Angeles Clippers did just that in a sea of yellow at Oracle Arena, beating the Warriors 98-96 to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series. It was the Clippers' first win in Oakland since 2011 after losing their previous five games in Oracle.

How it happened: After a back-and-forth first quarter in which both teams led by five points, the Clippers gained control in the second quarter and led by as many as nine points. The Clippers pushed their lead up to 18 points in the third quarter but surrendered a 10-0 run to the Warriors before the end of the period and it was a game again in the fourth. The Warriors got to within one point in the fourth quarter but could never get the lead again as the Clippers held on for the win.

What it means: The Clippers reclaimed home-court advantage and have a 2-1 series lead. If the Clippers can win Sunday, they’d be in position to close out the series back in Los Angeles in Game 5.

Hits: Blake Griffin scored 32 points and had eight rebounds and was once again the focal point of the offense. DeAndre Jordan was a force on both ends of the floor, scoring 14 points and grabbing a Clippers playoff record 22 rebounds. Chris Paul had 15 points and 10 assists, and J.J. Redick had 14 points. Jamal Crawford had 13 points off the bench.

Misses: Barnes was 0-for-6 shooting and did not score. He also had a couple of bad fouls that helped ignite the Warriors' 10-0 run before the end of the third quarter. He did, however, return and finish the game after having a nasty jammed left big toe.

Stat of the game: The Warriors shot just 6-of-31 from the three-point line.

Up next: The Clippers will take on the Warriors in Game 4 of their first-round series on Sunday at Oracle Arena.

Clippers-Warriors: A retrospective

April, 18, 2014
Apr 18
LOS ANGELES -- As is the case with most feuds, the participants have a hard time remembering exactly why they don't like each other, except for the fact that they, well, don't like each other.

Trying to stroll down memory lane in search of an exact reason or incident seems inconsequential.

[+] EnlargeClippers vs. Warriors
Kelley L Cox/USA TODAY SportsThe Clippers and Warriors admit they really don't like each other, and it seemed to come to a head on Christmas Day this season.
For the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors, the genesis of their feud is no longer important to them. But it might help others to explain why these two star-crossed franchises, which have never met in the postseason before Saturday, dislike each other so much.

"You would have thought they won the NBA Finals"

All good rivalries need a good instigator and the light that lit the flame on the Clippers-Warriors rivalry was the Warriors' bench, led by Kent Bazemore during the 2012-13 season.

Mark Jackson, who was then in his second year as the Warriors' coach, wanted his bench to get more involved games. He wanted them to celebrate after every big play and be totally into the game. No one took this more than Bazemore, who was an undrafted rookie out of Old Dominion. His over-the-top celebrations on the sideline became so legendary that it earned a nickname: "Bazemoring."

The birth of "Bazemoring" coincided with the birth of the Clippers-Warriors rivalry. When the two teams met in 2012-13 in the third game of the season, the Clippers had just come off of back-to-back wins against the Memphis Grizzlies and Los Angeles Lakers. A win over the Warriors, a team that had won 23 games the previous season seemed like an afterthought. Before the game, Clippers players were already talking about a postgame party in Hollywood to commemorate the launch of Chris Paul's new shoe.

Not only would the Warriors go on to win the game 114-110 and serve notice they were legitimate contenders now, their bench celebrated every big play just a little bit more than usual. When Steph Curry took a charge from Paul to seal the win with 7.5 seconds left, the Warriors bench went crazy and a rivalry was officially born.

"You would have thought they won the NBA Finals," Paul would later say.

That was just the beginning of the rivalry and the Clippers' growing dislike for the Warriors.

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Rapid Reaction: Blazers 110, Clippers 104

April, 16, 2014
Apr 16

PORTLAND, Ore. -- The Los Angeles Clippers made their intention for the final regular-season game known before they even boarded their flight to Portland.

They left Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and J.J. Redick back in Los Angeles. DeAndre Jordan would start in order to keep his current NBA-high streak of 240 straight games alive but be taken out less than two minutes into the game.

Despite being without four-fifths of their starting lineup, the Clippers nearly defeated the Portland Trail Blazers in the final game of the regular season. They came back from a 22-point deficit to take the lead in the fourth quarter before losing 110-104. The Clippers will now open the playoffs Saturday afternoon against the Golden State Warriors.

How it happened: The Clippers’ reserve unit looked like it would get run out of the building in Portland early. They fell behind by 14 points in the first quarter and 22 points by halftime before they began to mount a comeback in the third quarter behind Jamal Crawford’s hot hand. They went up by as many as six points in the fourth quarter before Portland eventually pulled away for the win.

What it means: It means the Clippers closed out the regular season with a franchise-record 57 wins and a franchise-high 3-seed in the Western Conference playoffs. They will open the postseason against Golden State on Saturday.

Hits: Crawford looked like the sixth man of the year in a starting role, finishing with 34 points, eight assists and five rebounds and nearly single-handedly willed the Clippers to a win in the second half. Matt Barnes added 19 points and eight rebounds, while Darren Collison had 19 points and seven assists.

Misses: None, except for the players missing on the Clippers' bench, as Paul, Griffin and Redick stayed back in L.A.

Stat of the game: Without Griffin and Jordan, the Clippers were destroyed for points in the paint, 54 to 28.

Up next: The Clippers open the playoffs at Staples Center against the Warriors on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. on ABC. The Clippers and Warriors split their four regular-season games with the Clippers winning the last meeting 111-98 last month in Los Angeles.

Rapid Reaction: Clippers 117, Nuggets 105

April, 15, 2014
Apr 15

LOS ANGELES -- Doc Rivers said he thought about resting his players for the Los Angeles Clippers' final home regular-season game. That was before he talked to them.

The players let their coach know they were plenty rested and wanted to play, and that's exactly what they did Tuesday as they defeated the Denver Nuggets 117-105 to notch their franchise-record 57th win of the season.

The Clippers will close out the regular season Wednesday in Portland with a shot at the second-best record in the league, and the No. 2 seed in the West still a possibility.

"I just don't want to lose our rhythm," Rivers said. "When the playoffs start, it's a whole new season, but you do want to have some kind of rhythm going into it."

How it happened: The Clippers looked as if they were going to run away with the game early. They went up by 18 in the first quarter, 19 in the second quarter and led by as many as 23 points in the third quarter before falling asleep and giving the Nuggets some hope. The Nuggets cut the Clippers' lead to five points in the fourth quarter before L.A. finally pulled away for the win.

What it means: The Clippers have won a franchise-record 57 games and are still alive for the No. 2 seed in the West. If the Oklahoma City Thunder lose to the Detroit Pistons and the Clippers beat the Portland Trail Blazers, the Clippers will finish with the second-best record in the league and No. 2 seed in the West.

Hits: Blake Griffin had 24 points and five rebounds, and Chris Paul had 21 points and 10 assists. J.J. Redick looked like his old self again, scoring 24 points and hitting 9 of 17 from the field. DeAndre Jordan also had 13 points and 16 rebounds.

Misses: You never want a 23-point lead to dwindle to five in a matter of minutes when you're looking to rest your starters. In the bigger picture, the Clippers would love Jamal Crawford and Darren Collison to return to their old form. Both players combined to go 0-for-6 from beyond the arc and hit 8 of 19 from the field.

Stat of the game: The Clippers won the game despite being out outrebounded (43-41) by the Nuggets. L.A. did edge Denver in points in the paint (50-42) and second-chance points (20-9).

Up next: The Clippers play their regular-season finale on the road against the Portland Trail Blazers. The teams have split their two games this season, with each winning at home. The Clippers last played in Portland the day after Christmas, falling to the Blazers 116-112 in overtime.

Clippers hone in as playoffs, Warriors loom

April, 12, 2014
Apr 12
LOS ANGELES -- Doc Rivers will tell you he doesn’t look at the standings posted in the Los Angeles Clippers locker room. He’ll joke that they are updated daily by the equipment manager and that his players never talk about it.

But with two games left in the regular season after Saturday’s 117-101 win over the Sacramento Kings, those standings and the start of the playoffs next week are clearly the only things the Clippers are focused on. Their third-place finish in the Western Conference standings is cemented, and their opponent in the first round -- the Golden State Warriors -- is essentially locked in as well.

"We’ve already started," Rivers said when asked when the Clippers will start planning for the Warriors. "We pretty much, in our opinion, felt like that's who we were going to play for the last week or two. But I don't know how much more attention you can pay to a team than you already do anyway. It is nice. You're preparing and I'm sure they're preparing for us. It's not anything with the players. It's more the looks and the film stuff that you can start cutting and getting ready."

A first-round matchup between the Clippers and Warriors would certainly not be void of history and storylines. While both teams are young and trying to change the culture of two historically downtrodden franchises, over the past two seasons, both teams have grown a disdain for each other that is sure to boil over during the course of a seven-game series.

[+] EnlargeGlen Davis
AP Photo/Danny MoloshokDavis' addition has provided needed depth to the Clippers' bench and another physical player to defend the West's elite.
"I don’t know if you guys know this, but Chris [Paul] has a unique ability of getting under people’s skin. I don’t know if you guys know that about him," deadpanned Kings coach Mike Malone, who was an assistant with the Warriors the previous two seasons and coached Paul with the New Orleans Hornets for a season before that. “It’s just a competitive series. My first two years there we were 5-3 against the Clippers, and this year it’s 2-2. Every game is hotly contested.

"You have two power forwards in David [Lee] and Blake [Griffin], and David is trying prove he’s an All-Star, which he is. You have Steph[en] Curry, who is emerging and no longer wants to be under Chris Paul’s shadow. He wants to show people what he can do. The playoffs is where rivalries are made. If they play each other in the first round, it will be a great series, and I’m sure a lot of emotions will be involved."

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Rapid Reaction: Clippers 117, Kings 101

April, 12, 2014
Apr 12

LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Clippers will be the first to admit the final three games are nothing more than a dress rehearsal for the playoffs.

After their loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder earlier this week, the Clippers secured the third seed in the Western Conference and can’t improve or lose that spot regardless of how the regular season plays out.

Of course, that’s not going to stop the Clippers from playing their starters and trying to win as they did Saturday in defeating the Sacramento Kings 117-101.

“We want to win,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “You always want to play well, but if we win does it mean we’re going to be great in the first [round]? No. It doesn’t. We’re playing a different team. So we have to be ready for that.”

How it happened: The Clippers played like a team going through the motions for the most part. They took a 14-point lead in the third quarter but allowed the Kings to get back into the game and make it a one-possession game before finally pulling away for the win.

What it means: The Clippers have tied their franchise record with 56 wins in a season and are one win away from establishing a new mark with two games left. The Clippers have already won the Pacific Division and clinched the third seed.

Hits: Blake Griffin had 27 points, nine assists and four rebounds, while Chris Paul had 17 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds. DeAndre Jordan added 21 points, seven blocks and nine rebounds, and J.J. Redick had 13 points and hit 2-of-4 from beyond the arc. Jamal Crawford also returned and scored 10 points and hit 2-of-4 from 3-point range, as well.

Misses: Darren Collison has been an integral part of the Clippers’ success this season, stepping into the starting lineup after injuries to Paul, Redick and Crawford. With all three healthy for the first time in awhile, Collison struggled, scoring just two points on 1-of-5 shooting.

Stat of the game: The Clippers outscored the Kings in the paint 54-42 and had 25 fast-break points to just five for the Kings.

Up next: The Clippers play their final home game of the regular season and their second to last game before the playoffs against the Denver Nuggets. The Nuggets have defeated the Clippers in their last two meetings, both in Denver, with the last win March 17, snapping the Clippers’ 11-game winning streak.

Rest not yet an option for Clippers

April, 8, 2014
Apr 8
PLAYA VISTA, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Clippers have just four more games left in the regular season and are only one game behind the Oklahoma City Thunder for the second seed in the West.

It would stand to reason that the result of Wednesday’s game against the Thunder at Staples Center will likely determine how much Clippers coach Doc Rivers will play his starters over the final three games of the season, but he said that wasn’t the case Tuesday.

“We’re getting a lot of rest right now already,” Rivers said. “So I don’t know if we really will have that issue. 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’re getting two games off between each game. I think we should put that in for the rest of the year for every team.”

Rivers may look to rest players in the final game of the season if there is nothing to play for with the game being in Portland on the second night of a back-to-back, but he said he would look to rest players based more on feel than anything else.

“I’ll probably do that visually,” Rivers said. “Not having a plan, but if you’re in a game and you think a guy is tired, you’ll just rest them on the spur of the moment.”

Two players who likely won't play before the end of the regular season are Jamal Crawford and Danny Granger. Crawford is out with a sore left Achilles, and Granger is out with a strained left hamstring. Crawford shot before practice Tuesday and said he hopes to be back before the playoffs start while the start of the playoffs would likely be the earliest return for Granger.

“[They’re] not ready,” Rivers said. “They won’t play Wednesday. I don’t see Saturday for either one. If there’s a change, I’ll let you know, but I don’t see them getting healthy enough to play.”