The L.A. Clippers reached 50 wins for the 5th straight season, won their 6th consecutive game, and Paul Pierce even reached 15th amongst the NBA’s all-time scoring leaders. And still, with just one game remaining in the regular season, the Clippers’ magic number remains 1 for securing home court advantage against the Utah Jazz in the first round of the playoffs.
It Takes Everything
The win against the Houston Rockets certainly helped their chances to gain the home crowd edge they’d like heading into the postseason, but what was most important about tonight was that the Clippers executed at both ends of the floor. Aside from winning by a margin of 29 against a typically-potent Rockets offense, they held the edge in field goal percentage, 3-point percentage, free throw attempts, rebounding (at both ends), assists, steals, turnovers, and points in the paint. Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Luc Mbah a Moute, Jamal Crawford, Brandon Bass, and Pierce all scored in double figures, and not a single Clipper played more than 30 minutes tonight. Despite that the game was a formality for the Rockets, seated firmly in 3rd place in the Western Conference, it was a fast-paced and well-balanced effort by the Clippers in front of the Staples Center crowd.
Playing With Pace and Locking-In Defensively
When the Clippers play with pace, good things happen. Not many teams rival the depth and athleticism that the Clippers possess, so it is always in their best interest to play to these strengths. From the opening tip, the Clippers were aggressive in pushing the tempo of the game and getting quality, open looks at the basket. Paul and Mbah a Moute led the way during the 1st quarter, scoring 12 and 10 points, respectively. Their offense, which has often stagnated and become predictable over the course of the season, was humming tonight. Even though the game remained close for the entire first half, the Clippers were passing willingly as a collective unit and playing downhill in the process. The first half was a bit of a lackluster effort defensively, but that wouldn’t remain for long.
At halftime, the Clippers were up 61-57 and had already baited James Harden into 4 costly fouls. Then the Clippers blew the game open during the 3rd quarter, scoring 36 points while allowing just 12 by the Rockets during that span. The Clippers were locked-in defensively, and the game even got a bit chippy. Montrezl Harrell, Jordan, and Paul all earned technicals in a span of just a couple minutes. By roughly halfway through the 3rd, Harden had already earned his 5th personal foul and the Clippers were up by more than 20 points.
The Rockets, who had nothing to gain from a win other than a moral victory (and possibly a few more MVP nods for Harden), appeared to have resigned by the 4th quarter. Both teams emptied their benches, and it became an exercise in futility for everyone on the floor. Fans in attendance weren’t left with nothing, however.
Paul Pierce, who has unfortunately been a non-factor when he’s played this season, even a detriment most of the time, scored all of his 10 points in the 4th quarter. In the process, he passed John Havlicek to rank 15th all-time in NBA scoring. It was a major milestone for Pierce, who has rarely been used during his final NBA season.
The Clippers and the Jazz both hold 50-31 records, locked in a virtual tie with just one game remaining to secure home court advantage. The Clippers hold the tie-breaker between the two, with both slated to play their final games on Wednesday; either a Clipper win or a Jazz loss will seal the deal. The Clippers and Jazz with both close the regular season on their respective home floors, so look forward to some exciting basketball less than 48 hours away.
L.A. Clippers vs Sacramento Kings
Wednesday April 12, 2017 7:30 PST
STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA
Fox Sports Prime Ticket, AM 570