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LA Clippers face critical games on back-to-back nights

From NBA media reports

* Tonight on NBA TV: Clippers vs. Rockets (8 ET)

That the LA Clippers are in the thick of the Western Conference playoff chase this late in the season says a lot about the resiliency of their team. What happens over their next 16 games — and in particular, the next two games — will play a critical role in cementing or losing that playoff bid.

The Clippers are in the midst of a three-game road trip that started with a win Tuesday in Chicago against the lottery-bound Bulls. From there, the road is considerably tougher as the Clippers visit the West-leading Houston Rockets tonight before taking on the Oklahoma City Thunder tomorrow (8 ET, NBA TV).

As challenging of a stretch this is, though, the Clippers are glad to be in a position to shape their playoff fortunes, writes Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times:

The Clippers (37-29) are the seventh seed in the West, a tenuous spot since they are only percentage points ahead of Utah (38-30) and San Antonio (38-30) while 10th-place Denver (37-31) is one game behind them. The Clippers are only two games behind Oklahoma City.

“Every team we play, for the most part, has got a chance to make the playoffs or are in the playoffs,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said Tuesday night in Chicago after his team pulled out a 112-106 victory with a lackluster effort. “This should be a lot of fun. They should really enjoy this. This is why you’re in this, to be in the race, be in the hunt.

“These are funs times,” Clippers forward Tobias Harris said. “Every game is meaningful, but these are extremely meaningful games. You’re pushing yourself and you’re pushing yourself to the limit with the team. We expect a lot out of each other every single night.”

Even though the Rockets and Thunder are two of the best teams in the league, Harris said there is only one way to approach both games.

“The approach is to win,” Harris said. “The approach is to go out there and compete every single night and go out there and collect wins. Obviously the margin of error is very slim, so we have to be ready at all times.”

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