This Week: The Clippers finished the week 3-1, with a home win against the lowly Milwaukee Bucks, a somewhat surprising loss in New Orleans, and a victorious Texas two step in Dallas and Houston.
The win in Houston was particularly sweet for the Clippers, considering they had to come back from an early double-digit deficit and the losses of Blake Griffin (back spasms) and Glen Davis (disciplinary issues).
The win was also important because the Clippers clinched their third consecutive playoff berth, and snapped Houston’s five-game winning streak–albeit without Dwight Howard and Patrick Beverly.
This year’s team is showing a consistency and toughness in the face of adversity it didn’t have at this stage in the season a year ago.
Much of the reason for that is the presence of Doc Rivers, who has managed through the team’s injuries impeccably and has put guys in good positions to succeed all year long.
Matt Barnes summed it up well after the win in Houston.
“We knew last year that was our weakness, that we were mentally weak and I think that we put a collective focus on being mentally tough and we’ve (come) a long way this year,” said Barnes, widely considered one of the tougher guys in the NBA.
The win in Dallas two nights before was arguably just as important a win than the win in Houston.
Not only is Dallas a team battling for a playoff position in the Western Conference, but the Clippers could see themselves facing the experienced Mavs in the first round of the playoffs.
Chris Paul–who at times has deferred to the emerging Griffin since returning from a shoulder injury–scored 31 and 30 points against the Mavericks and Rockets respectively, after shooting 0-12 from the floor in a two-point loss to the Pelicans on Wednesday.
The Clippers were down by a basket in the final minute, until Griffin took over on both ends of the floor.
Griffin said after the win that he thrives on others telling him he can’t do what it takes to be a great all-around player. “I take pride in the things I can’t do. I just use that as motivation,” he said.
Injury Report: J. J. Redick has yet to return to the lineup, but traveled with the team on their road trip and even participated in some of the shootaround activities prior to every game.
Redick has missed the last 24 games with a bulging disk in his back. The injury has turned out to be worse than what was initially reported, and there was some fear and uncertainty about his return this season.
Considering that he’s been shooting around before every game, it is highly likely the Clippers are taking every precaution to make sure Redick is ready come playoff time.
Also, Darren Collison and Jamal Crawford have taken advantage of the extra minutes they’ve played with Redick out of the lineup, which is another reason why there is no need to rush their sharpshooter to return.
Griffin’s back spasms have turned out to be a minor issue (considering it’s a back injury) for the Clippers.
Griffin is likely to return this week and had started all 74 games this season before Saturday’s injury in Houston.
No Hard Feelings: After Saturday’s courtside incident between Davis and Rivers, Rivers insisted the minor altercation between he and Davis–who won a championship together in 2008 with the Boston Celtics–was no big deal.
“Like I told you guys, it wasn’t that big of a deal,” Rivers said. “I just thought that game, he wasn’t right for us. The talk we had was 30 seconds. It wasn’t a long talk.”
Rivers sent Davis to the locker room in the second quarter after a reproachful Davis became too heated on the sideline for Rivers’ taste.
Where They Stand: The Clippers are currently seeded third in the Western Conference, two games ahead of the Rockets and two-and-a-half games behind the second-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder with seven games remaining.
Among the games remaining, they have notable matchups against the Mavs and Thunder at home, and close out the season in Portland against the Trail Blazers.