CLIPPERS CLINCH PLAYOFF BERTH

Los Angeles Clippers

They’re in. Again.

With the Utah Jazz’s 104-97 overtime loss to the San Antonio Spurs Friday, the Clippers became the eighth team in the NBA to clinch a berth in the 2013 playoffs.

It is the third time in franchise history they have made it to the postseason in back-to-back seasons and their ninth postseason appearance overall. The Clippers (47-22) need any combination of five wins in their next 13 games or five losses by the Golden State Warriors to clinch their first-ever Pacific Division title.

However, there is still much to be determined when it comes to where they’ll sit in the Western Conference when the playoffs begin April 20. They are even in the loss column with the Denver Nuggets and Memphis Grizzlies, who lost at New Orleans Friday, and are currently the No. 4 seed in the West.

The pressure of a tight postseason race is something that Head Coach Vinny Del Negro embraces. “The pressure’s great, I think,” Del Negro said after Friday’s practice. “We want to be in this situation and we have to play good basketball. It depends on how you look at it. Guys have to understand that they’re in a very unique situation and should try to take advantage of it as much as possible. I think it’s good pressure.”

The Clippers have 13 games remaining in the regular season, including a matchup with the Grizzlies in Memphis on April 13. Memphis has 14 to go, while the Nuggets, who defeated the Clippers twice in three outings, have 12 games left. If the Clippers win the division crown, they would own the tiebreaker over Memphis and Denver, regardless of the outcome of their head-to-head series in the regular season.

Willie Green talked Friday about building momentum over the next three weeks heading into round one.

“The last few games we’ve just got to continue to have crisp, sharp practices with the mindset that we’re preparing for the postseason,” Green said. “We’re preparing each game to go out and play hard and play our opponents hard and preparing our team to go out and win games down the stretch.”

Despite earning a 12-5 record in their last 17 games, the feeling is that the Clippers have room for improvement. That’s been magnified somewhat by the recent success of Memphis and Denver, which have won 33 of their last 37 games combined, including 14-straight by the Nuggets. Still, the Clippers can control whether or not they finish third, fourth or fifth as long as they win.

“We know it’s going to be a dog fight throughout the rest of the season,” DeAndre Jordan said. “So, we have to take care of business.”

The first part of that business was checked off the list Friday night, courtesy of Utah’s loss.