PREGAME REPORT | APRIL 10, 2013
Tipoff: 7:30 p.m. PST | STAPLES Center | Los Angeles, CA | Game Notes »
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With a week left in the regular season, there is still a lot at stake for the Pacific Division champion Clippers (51-26)
They remain in contention for the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference and if they win their last five games, beginning Wednesday night with the Minnesota Timberwolves (29-48), they are assured home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
“Obviously, I think it’s ideal [to get home court in round one],” Jamal Crawford said at Wednesday’s shoot-around. “But for us, when you’re playing against good teams you’ll have to beat them at their place at some point. We don’t mind starting anywhere else. We just want to continue playing good basketball and build momentum down the stretch.”
The Clippers have won two games in a row, both by 14 points or more, and appear to have taken a step towards fine-tuning for the playoffs. They face Minnesota, who is on the second night of a back-to-back, Wednesday before embarking on a key two-game road trip to New Orleans and Memphis.
“It’s hard not to look at the schedule,” Blake Griffin said. “But I like our mentality of taking it one game at a time and not taking anything for granted over these last five games.
“We didn’t want to be in this position, as far as where we’re at as a team, but I think we are on the right track.”
Part of getting back on track means getting healthy. Griffin, who was nagged by a painful left calf bruise for the better part of eight games, said he hopes he’s “turned the corner” when it comes to the injury. And Chauncey Billups returned to practice Tuesday, but remains day-to-day with a groin strain.
“I want us to be healthy and I want us to be playing well,” Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said about his outlook in the five games. “And all those things take care of themselves. I don’t spend a lot of time speculating or [scoreboard] watching.”
The Denver Nuggets, who hold a two-game lead in the loss column over the Clippers, play the San Antonio Spurs at Pepsi Center Wednesday. Memphis is off.
LAST TIME OUT
Clippers 109, Lakers 95: Their first Pacific Division championship was secured Sunday in a situation that Crawford deemed the work of the “basketball Gods.” After decades of seeing their Los Angeles neighbors win, it was only fitting that the Clippers clinched the division at the expense of the Lakers, sweeping them for the first time since 1974-75 in the process.
Griffin and Chris Paul scored 24 points apiece as the Clippers pulled away in the second half after trailing by seven in the early going. Paul added 12 assists and five rebounds, while Griffin had 12 rebounds and five assists, marking the eighth time this season the superstar duo has tallied double-doubles in the same game.
“I thought Blake and Chris were in tune with everything in terms of locking into timeouts, demanding things from their teammates,” Del Negro said. “I thought they set the tone for us. Jamal came in and does what he does, but our bench was special.”
Crawford scored 20 points off the bench and Matt Barnes had a dozen points against his former team. The Clippers’ bench outscored the Lakers, 36-19, helping finishing off the season sweep that included three double-digit victories and an average margin of 13.25.
Warriors 105, Timberwolves 89: The visiting Timberwolves could not overcome a 36.7% shooting effort and the Golden State Warriors clinched their first playoff berth in seven years Tuesday. After staying within a point in the opening 24 minutes, the Wolves scored 35 points in the second half and the Warriors pulled away with a dynamic performance from their backcourt of Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry. Thompson had 30 points and five steals, while Curry added 24 points and 10 assists. Chase Budinger led Minnesota with 17 of the team’s
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
When the Timberwolves rebound the basketball, they can cause a number of problems. They are 21-13 when they out-rebound their opponent and 23-8 when the control the defensive glass. Of course, with All-Star Kevin Love (knee) out, that makes it a more difficult proposition. Still, they boast big-bodied center Nikola Pekovic (8.9 boards per game), sinewy forward Andrei Kirilenko and point guard Ricky Rubio, who are all above average rebounders at their positions.
The Clippers counter on the glass with Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. The front-court tandem combined for 25 rebounds against the Lakers with Jordan leading the way with 13. The Clippers are 16-5 this year when Jordan has at least 10 boards. In his last six games against the Timberwolves, Jordan has had 10 or more four times.
“They’re a tough team and they’re capable of beating a lot of teams,” Griffin said. “Pekovic is tough down low and Rubio runs the point extremely well.”
The Wolves have knocked off three playoff teams, including Oklahoma City, since Mar. 29 and have won three of their last four on the road.
Paul has outscored Rubio 45-6 in their two career meetings… The Clippers are looking for their fifth straight win against the Timberwolves, which would match the second longest active winning streak against any opponent. The Clippers have defeated the Bobcats five times in a row and the Utah Jazz six-straight times… Minnesota is 20th in the NBA in scoring at 95.6 points per game. They have only won once (1-18) when they score fewer than 90 points… Crawford has made 39 consecutive free throws… The Wolves are 1-8 when Derrick Williams scores 20 points or more this season and winless when he tallies a double-double…