PREGAME REPORT | APRIL 17, 2013
Tipoff: 7:30 p.m. PT | Sleep Train Arena | Sacramento, CA | Game Notes »
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The most historic regular season in Clippers franchise history comes to an end Wednesday night when they take on the Sacramento Kings on the road.
The first-time Pacific Division champions enter Wednesday night’s game with their playoff positioning still very much up in the air. The Clippers (55-26) trail the Denver Nuggets by one game for the No. 3 seed and are even with the Memphis Grizzlies but own the tiebreaker due to winning their division.
A victory over the Kings (28-53) would secure home court advantage over the Grizzlies no matter the outcome of Memphis’ game against the Utah Jazz and will earn them the No. 3 seed if the Nuggets also lose to the Phoenix Suns. All the possible scenarios should clear up by the time the Clippers tip off in Sacramento as both the Nuggets and Grizzlies play two-and-a-half hours earlier.
The Clippers also come into the game riding a six-game winning streak and are on a roll at the right time with the playoffs starting this weekend. They have won four of the six games by double digits and also scored two victories on the road.
“We realize what a special team we have and I think we’ve turned that corner,” Matt Barnes said. “We’ve definitely moved into playoff mode.”
Wednesday night’s game could also hold historical significance for the Kings as the pending sale of the franchise has the team’s future in Sacramento in limbo.
“It’s probably going to be pretty crazy in Sac tomorrow, possibly the last game out there,” added Barnes, who is a native of Sacramento and attended nearby Del Campo High. “And they beat us last time we there and we need to go in there and take care of business.”
LAST TIME OUT
Clippers 93, Trail Blazers 77: Caron Butler scored a game-high 22 points and Chris Paul dished out 11 assists in just 24 minutes to lead the Clippers to their sixth consecutive win.
The game was a flashback to some of the Clippers games earlier this season, particularly during the 17-game winning streak, as no player logged more than 27 minutes and the starters were all on the bench for the fourth quarter. Blake Griffin had 16 points, six rebounds and four assists.
The Trail Blazers suffered their 12th consecutive loss, the franchise’s longest streak since the 1985-86 season. Rookie of the year favorite Damian Lillard had an off-night despite playing a game-high 40 minutes, scoring 12 points on 4-for-12 shooting although he did manage eight assists. Will Barton led Portland with 17 points on 8-for-14 and rookie Joel Freeland added 13 points and six rebounds off the bench.
Thunder 104, Kings 95: The Thunder clinched the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference Monday thanks to 29 points from Kevin Durant on 10-for-16 shooting.
Isaiah Thomas was the only Kings’ starter to reach double figures as he led the team with 16 points but committed five turnovers. Travis Outlaw added 15, Jimmer Fredette scored 11 and Cole Aldrich had 12 points on a perfect 6-for-6 night from the field against the team that drafted him.
Tyreke Evans, who is second on the team in scoring, went to the locker room The Kings trailed by as much as 24 points but cut it to 11 with 9:30 left in the game. But they could not get over the hump as they didn’t get the deficit under double digits until Fredette converted a four-point play with 7.8 seconds left.
NOTEWORTHY MATCH UP
DeAndre Jordan vs. DeMarcus Cousins. Jordan leads the league in field goal percentage, shooting 64.1% this season but his defense on Cousins will be the bigger factory in Wednesday’s game. Cousins scored 17 points and grabbed 11 boards in the last meeting between the teams, a 116-101 Kings victory.
Cousins has recorded 34 double-doubles this season and is averaging 9.8 rebounds a game, good for ninth in the NBA. He has grabbed 2,126 rebounds in his first three seasons in the league, passing Chris Webber for the franchise record in the first three years.
THINGS TO WATCH
Defense wins championships. It may be the final game of the regular season, but the goal remains the same for the Clippers as they have a much better chance to win when they defend the 3-pointer.
It will be easier said than done as the Kings have hit at least six 3-pointers in 27 straight games. In the last meeting between the teams, the Kings unloaded a merciless barrage from beyond the arc, going 14-for-28 on their 3-pointers. With the Clippers leading 98-96, the Kings went on a 12-2 scoring run thanks to four 3-pointers, three of them from Toney Douglas, who accounted for 13 of the Kings’ 18 points in the final 3:26.
The Clippers will also need to control the pace. They had one of their better defensive performances in the second half of the season on Tuesday when they held the Trail Blazers to 77 points, the second fewest they’ve allowed since the All-Star break.
Despite their record, the Kings have been one of the more high-powered offenses in the NBA since the break. They rank second in the league in scoring (106.7 ppg) during the second half and have scored 100 or more points in 25 of the last 31 games including 14 of the last 16 in Sacramento.
It’s all in the rotation. With the playoffs coming up, the amount of minutes the Clippers starters play on Wednesday night could swing wildly depending on the outcome of the afternoon games.
Should the Nuggets win their game and the Grizzlies lose to the Jazz, the Clippers will have nothing to play for and head coach Vinny Del Negro will likely have an easy decision to rest his star players before the postseason.
But if those results flip, the Clippers could very well be playing for the No. 3 seed on Wednesday night and could signify an early start to playoff basketball for the team.
Whatever the outcomes of the early games, the Clippers will likely know exactly where they stand by the time their game starts on Wednesday night.
Evans (left quad strain) is listed as day-to-day after suffering the injury on a drive to the basket late in the first quarter against the Thunder… Wednesday night marks only the third time in NBA history that every team will be playing on the final day of the regular season... Wednesday night marks the final back-to-back of the season for the Clippers. They are currently 26-15 overall and 13-7 on the second game of a back-to-back, 9-5 when that game is on the road… Jamal Crawford can break the franchise single-season record of 145 3-pointers with three or more makes from beyond the arc. Rasual Butler holds the record.