The players and coaches downplayed it pregame, but it was evident that the final regular season date with the Memphis Grizzlies was of utmost important to the L.A. Clippers.
Led by 16 points and 12 boards from an energetic DeAndre Jordan, the Clippers marched into Memphis Saturday night and got their biggest win of the season, a 91-87 triumph over their Western Conference rivals.
The victory pulled the Clippers into a tie with the Grizzlies for the No. 4 seed in the conference, with each team sitting at 54-26 with two games to go in the regular season. However, the Clippers won the season series 3-1 against Memphis, so they own the tiebreaker should the two teams finish the year with the same record. They’re each also just a half-game behind Denver for the No. 3 seed.
If the Clippers can manage to overtake the Nuggets for the third seed, they’d likely face the Golden State Warriors in round one. L.A. is just 1-3 against the Warriors this season.
If the season ended today, the Clippers would face Memphis in the first round of the playoffs, but, unlike last season, they’d own home court advantage in the series. It was Los Angeles’ fifth consecutive win overall.
L.A. also got an unexpected boost from 40-year-old Grant Hill Saturday evening, who played crucial minutes down-the-stretch after Caron Butler left the game at the half with a sore right knee. Hill, who had played in just one of the Clippers’ previous eight games, stepped in to score five points and block a pair of crucial shots in the fourth quarter. Butler was scoreless in nine minutes before leaving the game, and is day-to-day.
The Clippers’ offense was highly impressive against one of the league’s premier defenses. Memphis is one of the league’s best in terms of turnovers forced, yet the Clippers only coughed it up seven times on the night. Each team turned it over just three times in the second half.
Marc Gasol was tremendous for Memphis, finishing with 18 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists.
Mike Conley, who had been on fire of late, struggled mightily, as he has done against the Clippers historically. He came into the game having scored 20 or more points in five of his last six games, but finished with just 12 on 4-11 shooting from the field.
This recent run has been highly encouraging for the Clips, after having played so-so ball throughout February and March. It’s also particularly positive to know that you can still beat a quality opponent like Memphis even without your top two scorers lighting it up. Blake Griffin and Chris Paul combined f0r just 25 points on the night.
The reserves provided steady production, as well, scoring 40 points in all, with none of them scoring in double-figures. Memphis got 21 points from the bench.
The Clippers’ final two games are at home Tuesday against the Trail Blazers, and then on the road against the Kings the next night, in what could be the final NBA game played in Sacramento. Neither Portland nor Sacto is in the playoffs, so the Clippers “should” be able to take care of business.
Meanwhile, the Grizzlies will travel to Dallas to face the Mavericks on Monday, and then host the Jazz Wednesday. The Mavericks are still trying to get over the .500 mark despite not being playoff-bound for the first time since 1999. The next game could be huge for Utah, as the Jazz are still fighting with the Lakers for the eighth and final playoff spot.
Denver has three games left, and will host the Blazers Sunday evening, and then travel to Milwaukee to face the Bucks on Monday. They’ll close the regular season with the lowly Phoenix Suns coming to town. The Nuggets have won 21 straight games at home.
About the Author
Written by Taylor Smith
Taylor Smith is a writer for the Los Angeles Clippers.