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Clippers looking to play spoiler against Pelicans

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Fresh off of playoff elimination, the L.A. Clippers will look to thwart the Pels’ playoff hopes.

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Los Angeles Clippers Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

The Big Picture

They gave it a hellacious run, but the L.A. Clippers were officially eliminated from playoff contention on Saturday when they were blown out at home by the Denver Nuggets. Doc Rivers and his staff have done a marvelous job this season, all things considered, but the combination of relentless injuries and just a general talent disparity proved too much to overcome.

An awful lot has changed since the team broke camp in Hawaii last fall. The Clippers were eager to exceed expectations despite the loss of Chris Paul, and I feel safe in suggesting that this team would’ve easily made the playoffs had they stayed relatively healthy. The early season loss of Patrick Beverley was brutal, and Danilo Gallinari’s sketchy availability all year long has been unfortunate. Gallo played decently when he was out there, but this marks his fourth consecutive injury-shortened season.

Making the playoffs would’ve been a fun story to follow, but now the Clippers are set for a massively important summer. They’ll have two lottery picks thanks to the Blake Griffin trade. The chances either pick winds up in the top-10 are slim, but they’ll still have the opportunity to land a pair of nice prospects in what looks like a promising draft class. Considering the way the Clips have essentially punted on the draft for years, it’ll be fun to see some high-upside young guys coming in.

The team also has to deal with the impending free agency of DeAndre Jordan. Remember the last time that happened? Emojis were involved.

With nothing to play for other than pride and the potential of ruining another team’s playoff hopes, the Clippers look like they’re going to take it easy over the last few games. In addition to Beverley, Gallinari, Avery Bradley (remember him?) and Jawun Evans, the Clips have listed Lou Williams (ankle) and Austin Rivers (elbow) as out for tonight. That means we’re probably getting heavy minutes for guys like Ty Wallace, Sindarius Thornwell and the newly-signed C.J. Williams in this one.

The Opponent

The Pelicans are in a good spot as of now, but they still haven’t yet punched their playoff ticket. New Orleans enters tonight as the No. 5 seed in the Western Conference at 46-34. They’re just a game back of Utah, but they’re also only a game ahead of the Spurs and Thunder. The eighth-place Timberwolves and ninth-place Nuggets are two back of the Pels, as well. There are only a couple of games left, but an awful lot can change between now and the end of the campaign.

The Pels picked up a massive win in Oakland the other night, and they’ll wrap up the season with a home game against the Spurs on Wednesday. As for their competitors, the Wolves will face the shamefully tanking Grizzlies tonight, the Nuggets are in Portland to take on the Blazers, the Spurs get the Kings and the Thunder are in Miami.

The Pels, Spurs and Thunder can officially clinch their playoff berths with wins tonight. Considering the Clippers are down several guys and are just playing out the string, Anthony Davis and co. celebrating a playoff appearance tonight looks like a fairly safe bet.

The Pelicans and what’s left of the Clippers will tip things off from Staples Center at 7:30 PT. You can catch the game nationally on ESPN and locally on Prime Ticket, as usual.