Trail Blazers Vs. Clippers Preview
April 16, 2014
By JEFF BARTL
The Los Angeles Clippers may know by the time they take the court Wednesday night if they still have an opportunity to secure the Western Conference's No. 2 seed.
That scenario is far less important than their ultimate goal.
Blake Griffin and J.J. Redick won't make the trip, and other starters may rest on both sides as Los Angeles visits the playoff-bound Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday night.
The Clippers (57-24) set a franchise record for victories for a second straight season with Tuesday's 117-105 home win over Denver, and they also kept alive their chances to finish second in the West.
Los Angeles sits one game behind Oklahoma City, which tips off its contest against Detroit 2 1/2 hours prior to the start of this game. If the Thunder lose and the Clippers beat the Blazers, Los Angeles would earn the second seed by virtue of a better conference record.
No matter their seed, the Clippers are focused on winning a championship. Coach Doc Rivers will keep Griffin and Redick at home, while Chris Paul said he wasn't sure if he would make the trip.
"I'm very happy that we're doing this stuff, but it's not what we want," Rivers said.
Griffin picked up his 16th technical foul, which triggered a league-mandated one-game suspension. Griffin, who finished with a game-high 24 points, believes the NBA will rescind the technical.
"I honestly do," he said. "If I make a play on the ball and I hit the ball first, and he gives me a tech for that, I'm not sure if that's going to stand up."
While Los Angeles' first-round opponent is yet to be determined, Portland (53-28) has secured the fifth seed and will face Houston. The Blazers are returning to the playoffs after a two-year absence and will be seeking their first postseason series win since beating Utah in the 2000 conference semifinals.
Coach Terry Stotts said Damian Lillard, Wesley Matthews, Nicolas Batum and Robin Lopez all will start against the Clippers, but LaMarcus Aldridge may be inactive for extra rest.
"It's the West. We don't care who we're going to play. It's going to be tough anyway," Batum told the team's official website. "Excited finally for playoffs to start because we wait too much for that."
Portland has won eight of nine after beating Golden State 119-117 in overtime Sunday. Aldridge finished with 26 points and Matthews added 24.
"I told the guys before the game, I thought this would be a great tuneup for the playoffs," Stotts said. "It's heightened in the playoffs, but I felt this was good preparation for us."
Batum made a 3-pointer in the closing seconds of regulation to force overtime in Portland on Dec. 26 before the Blazers won 116-112, and the Clippers outscored the visiting Blazers by eight in the final quarter to win the second matchup 122-117 on Feb. 12.
Griffin scored 35 points in the first meeting and 36 in the second, while Chris Paul averaged 27 points and 14 assists in the two matchups.
The Blazers have won eight of the last 10 meetings in Portland.