It's difficult to glean anything definitive from a game in which Maggette sits, Cassell and Vlad can't go and Brand has his worst shooting night of the season.  On the walk back to the car, Justin suggested that, despite the loss, the Clippers had accomplished everything they'd wanted to given the circumstances
  • The Clips held the second most efficient offense in the league to 37.3% shooting with crisp rotations and quick close-outs.  Chris Kaman turned in his finest defensive effort of the season. 
  • They sent a message to Dallas that they can forget about coming into Staples and rolling over the Clips.  The Mavs escaped with a victory against a Clippers team that was missing three of its six leading scorers. 
  • And, of course, the Clippers lost ground on Memphis. 

Mission accomplished. 

Do I think it was weird that the Clips never closed out on Nowitzki as the clock winded down?  Yes.  Double Dirk and make Dampier take the final shot.   Is it disconcerting that Elton Brand missed a wide open 15-footer with 0:53 from the top of the key?  You bet. 

But given that the Mavs' defense was able to constrict the Clippers' offense in the paint (the Clips' outside attack consisted of a couple look-what-I-found bombs from James Singleton), I was heartened by the Clips' grittiness. 

Grit won't win us a playoff series, but let's face it - with Sam and Vlad ailing, Elton exhausted, Maggette out indefinitely - I'll chalk up the next week as a preseason for the postseason, an opportunity for Dunleavy to figure out whether he can (or should) find a place for Singleton in the rotation, what sort of advantages those ridiculous perimeter traps he employs really give you in the half-court, and why a combination of  light sportjackets and dark pants make him look he's selling KIAs. 

Memphis holds the tiebreaker against the Clips.  Each team now has five games remaining including next Tuesday night's game against one another.

The Grizz get:                                    

Minnesota
@ Charlotte
@ Houston
CLIPPERS
@ Minnesota

The Clips get:

Portland
@ Seattle
Seattle
@ MEMPHIS
@ Dallas

Your guess is as good as mine, though it seems that the Grizz have it a little easier (and are a lot healthier, Stoudemire aside).  The challenge here is for the Clips to slide to 6 without surrendering a home-court advantage to Denver, who are now only half a game back. 

Denver finishes with:

@ Utah
Sacramento
Houston
@ Seattle

Let's assume that Denver goes 3-1.  They would finish 47-35.  The Clippers would need to go 3-2 down the stretch to match the Nuggets' 47 wins (the Clippers hold the tiebreaker with Denver by virtue of the 3-1 season series win). 

What does all this mean?  For the next week, until the Clips arrive at Fed Ex Forum, root for Pau like you rooted for Serpico.  And we need Denver every night to choke like they've got a 20 point halftime lead.