FINAL | April 16, 2013 | STAPLES Center | Los Angeles, CA

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Eric Patten

LOS ANGELES – The nightly highlight show that has become Clippers basketball perhaps hit full tilt Tuesday night against the Portland Trail Blazers.

With Portland limping to the finish line and the Clippers playing for home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs, the results were a bevy of plays that left the 91st consecutive sellout crowd at Staples Center in a fit and gave the Clippers a 93-77 victory, their sixth in a row.  

The win moved the Clippers (55-26) within a game of third-place Denver (56-25) and kept pace with Memphis (55-26), who were both idle Tuesday. It sets up what could be a dramatic conclusion to the NBA regular season in 24 hours, when all three teams play with a chance to finally provide clarity in a race for home court advantage in the first round.

A win by the Clippers Wednesday at Sacramento will assure them of home court in round one, couple that with a loss by the Nuggets at home against Phoenix and the Clippers could slide up to No. 3 in the West. For now, though, the Clippers say it’s about taking care of what they can control.

“We’re just trying to add them up (wins) and put ourselves in position tomorrow night to get home court,” Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said. “It’s not going to be easy. We need to be ready to go.”

After the game it sounded as though Chris Paul, who had eight points, 11 assists and three steals, believes the team is prepared. “I think there were a lot of possessions tonight where we executed,” Paul said. “I really got excited when we ran some of our actions to perfection and really paid attention to detail because that’s what we’re going to have to do in the playoffs.”

In many respects Portland (33-48), playing without All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge (ankle) and fellow starters Nicolas Batum (shoulder) and Wesley Matthews (ankle), were not much of a test. But for the Clippers, who are beginning to reach full strength, the game was an opportunity to sharpen things up, especially with Chauncey Billups returning to the lineup.

Billups missed 10 of the past 11 games with a strained right groin but played 18 pain-free minutes Tuesday with four points (0-for-5 shooting, 4-for-4 from the foul line) and five assists, one of which exemplified the run of alluring plays the Clippers put together.

Midway through the third quarter he found Blake Griffin, who had 16 points, six rebounds and four assists in a team-high 27 minutes, with a between-the-legs bounce pass for a dunk along the baseline.

DeAndre Jordan got in the mix a few possessions later catching a wild lob from Chris Paul with his right hand and stretching out to throw it down through contact from his defender. Jordan went 5-for-5 from the field with 10 points, nine rebounds and three blocks.

He leads the NBA in field goal percentage and enters Wednesday with a chance to set the franchise record for field goal percentage in a season. He is at 64.4%, 0.7 ahead of James Donaldson’s team record set in 1984-85. On Tuesday he was one of three starters in double-figures.

Caron Butler led all scorers with 22 points after he missed the second half of Saturday’s game at Memphis with a sore right knee. Three days later he made nine of his 14 shots, including 4-of-7 from 3-point range. Eighteen of his points came in the third quarter when the Clippers opened up as large as a 27-point lead.

They scored just 11 as team in the fourth, but it did little to dampen the festivities that included a half-court shot by a season-ticket holder during a timeout, pregame speeches from Griffin, Paul and Clippers broadcaster Ralph Lawler, and an otherworldly number of early highlights.  

Paul, who had eight points, 11 assists and three steals, faked an over-the-shoulder pass for a layup. Griffin wheeled around a screen for a pass in stride from Billups to throw down a two-handed dunk where he spun off the rim. Eric Bledsoe split two defenders for a double-clutch layup and later outran everybody for a layup off a bullet pass from Barnes. And  a long outlet pass from Lamar Odom to Jamal Crawford leading to a no-look, behind-the-back pass to a cutting Ryan Hollins for a dunk on the break.

“I knew that if he came to me (the defender) I was already doing it,” Crawford said. “I just had to take a dribble to draw the defense in and made the play.”

Crawford’s dish was part of a 15-0 run that broke the game open in the second quarter. There was no looking back from there. The Blazers were unable to get within single digits again and by the fourth quarter Del Negro had already emptied the bench.

But Tuesday was less about stats or even highlights and more about remaining healthy and heading to Sacramento with an opportunity to shore up home court.

“It was good, nobody played a lot of minutes with a back-to-back tomorrow night so we should be rested,” Del Negro said.


The Clippers are 22-4 when Jordan shoots 50.0% or better and makes five or more field goals… Crawford moved within two 3-pointers of tying the franchise record of 145 in a single season, held by Rasual Butler… Griffin and Paul addressed the crowd before the game, thanking them for their season-long support. “We’re definitely going to need it heading into the playoffs,” Paul said. Lawler asked the crowd, “Are we having fun this year or what?” and said it was by far the best season in franchise history.


A first-year season ticket holder Kevin Liao, 27, made a half-court shot in between the third and fourth quarter to win a new Dodge Dart. Liao, who is from Woodland Hills, CA, is the second contestant this season to make the car-winning shot. It is also the second year in a row a season-ticket holder made the shot in the team’s in the final week of the regular season.



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