Most of the teams in the NBA don’t have too much to play for. The Los Angeles Clippers aren’t like everyone else and their 117-105 win over the Denver Nuggets, getting another fine performance from Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, means that they still have a shot at finishing second in the Western conference, overtaking the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Clippers started the game with a 13-0 run, and that it for the game. Griffin finished with 24 points and picked up his 16th technical foul of the season which means he won’t be playing against the Portland Trail Blazers in the final regular season game of the season, although he thinks the league might reverse the call. Chris Paul had 21 points with 10 assists, and both stars didn’t even play in the fourth quarter, as the Nuggets didn’t really come close to threatening a healthy lead.
DeAndre Jordan had yet another double double, scoring 13 points and grabbing 16 rebounds. J.J. Redick was on fire from beyond the arc with four 3-pointers and the Clippers once again looked very good when moving the ball and creating open shots all across the floor. The Nuggets aren’t exactly the perfect example of the improved defense the Clippers will face in the postseason, but but few teams have been playing as well as the Clippers have had heading into the postseason.
What did we see from the Nuggets? Same kind of energy and speed we usually do, but nothing much else. The defense has been a mess this season and the players left on the team minus all the injuries might make them fun to watch, but not very efficient or capable of pulling off great things more often than not. Kenneth Faried scored 21 points, Aaron Brooks had another solid game with 19 points and Timofey Mozgov finished with a 18-11 double double. None of that changes the disappointment in Brian Shaw’s first season.
For the Clippers it’s all about the playoffs; not just making them, but whether or not they win or lose on the final game of the postseason, and how far they get to. This team has been on the rise for the last four season: Blake Griffin making them interesting followed by Chris Paul making them good. Doc Rivers arriving with some adjustments around the stars make them contenders, at least in their own eyes. But they need something more than a conference semifinal to show for it.
The Clippers are third in the West with a 57-24 record. They need to win against the Blazers on the road and for the Thunder to lose their final game in order to finish second in the playoffs. The teams are tied at 2-2 in the head to head, but the Clippers will finish with the better conference record if everything goes their way on the final day. Maybe the Thunder actually don’t want to play the Mavs in the first round so slipping to third might not be such a bad idea, but trying to reach the finals by playing in LA and San Antonio doesn’t sound too uplifting or a prospect.