It all comes down to this.
Yep, just a couple of days are left in the regular season and the Los Angeles Clippers could finish anywhere from second all the way down to fifth. In fact, only three spots in the West are already locked up (Golden State in first, Portland in fourth and Dallas in seventh).
The Clippers will have a chance to wrap things up in Phoenix tonight. If they win, they can spend tomorrow night on League Pass flicking between a bunch of games trying to work out who will be coming to STAPLES Center this weekend for the first round of the playoffs.
- The Clippers can finish as high as second and as low as fifth;
- If the Clippers have a tied record with San Antonio or Houston they will finish third due to the Division winner tiebreaker rule;
- If the Clippers win tonight they will finish no lower than third
How it could play out:
- The race for second is down to three after Klay Thompson torched the Grizzlies on Monday night. However, the Clippers can clinch the 2-seed if they beat the Suns tonight and both San Antonio and Houston lose on Wednesday. Sure, the Spurs have won 11 straight but tomorrow night they take on a Pelicans team fighting to make the eight. Likewise, the Rockets take on a Utah Jazz team that’s gone 18-9 since the All-Star Break (including a big win against Houston in mid-March).
The Clippers can control their fate and at worst finish third if they win tonight. However, if the Spurs and Rockets also win their final fixture the three teams will be tied. In that scenario, the tiebreaker belongs to San Antonio (division champions) and the Spurs would take the 2-seed. Meanwhile, the Clippers own the tiebreaker with the Rockets, despite their season series being tied at 2-2, thanks to a superior in-conference record.
Again, in the event that the Clippers win, if either of the Spurs or the Rockets win tomorrow night (and clinch the Southwest Division), the Clippers will hold firm in the third seed. However, they will remain ahead of one of them if both win because of a superior in-conference record. Alternately, the Clippers could clinch third if they lose and so do the Spurs and the Rockets.
- (Note: Portland is already locked into the 4-seed despite its inferior record to the teams around it, thanks to clinching the Northwest Title). If the Phoenix Suns play spoiler tonight the Clippers will rely on other results to determine their first-round fate. Subsequently, if both the Spurs and the Rockets win tomorrow night, the Clippers can slide to fifth. The Clippers may end up in a tie with the Grizzlies but can’t slip below Memphis due to winning the tiebreaker (even with a loss in Phoenix the Clippers will have a superior conference record than Memphis).
- If the Clippers manage to secure the 2-seed a date with Dallas awaits. Last time they met, Dallas torched the Clippers by 30 but this was before Blake Griffin returned from injury. Since then, the Clippers have gone 13-2 while the Mavericks have gone just .500. In the other two meetings between these teams, the Clippers won by nearly 40 points combined.
- The Clippers showed they can Grit and Grind with Grizzlies last weekend in Los Angeles. Sure, Marc Gasol leaving the game in the first quarter helped but the Clippers shot less than 40% from the field and still managed to squeeze out the victory. The Grizzlies are a little beat up entering the playoffs but we all know playoff track record between these teams from the Vinny Del Negro days.
- The Portland Trail Blazers have been locked into the 4-seed for a week or so now and are patiently waiting to see who their first-round opponent is. Fortunately, if the Clippers drop to fifth, Los Angeles will maintain home court advantage due to their superior record. The Blazers are the walking wounded. Not only is Matthews done for the season but Portland will be hoping that Afflalo, Batum, McCollum and Kaman can all get right in time for round one action.
- The Clippers (and J.J. Redick) have shown an ability to play James Harden well despite last time these teams met (Harden had 34 on 17/18 free throws). That being said, it was Blake Griffin’s return and while the Clippers are finally at full strength Houston is monitoring Dwight still and are adjusting to life without Patrick Beverley and Donatas Motiejunas.
- The scariest thing in the West not named Golden State. The Spurs have won 11 straight and are demolishing opponents. Kawhi Leonard is a menace on both ends of the floor and the Spurs have hit their straps at the right time. Sure, the Clippers split the season series 2-2 but based on how good San Antonio has been of late, anything before the All-Star Break should be taken with a grain of salt.