Clippers clinch No. 4 playoff seed with 115-95 rout of Kings
When you think of the Los Angeles Clippers, you don't necessarily think about Luc Mbah a Moute as being a player that could swing a series in a significant way.
"We're ready", Clippers coach Doc Rivers said.
The Clippers are a veteran playoff team team who might be on the verge of feeling the wrecking ball if they flop.
Neither is the momentum they're riding.
However, the moment that fans will remember most came with approximately two minutes remaining in the blowout win, as forward Paul Pierce made an appearance in the game.
In addition to the environment at Staples Center that Utah players are expecting to be hostile, the Jazz will be facing a Clippers team that enters Game 1 on a roll.
After years of disappointment underscored by last year's post-season cut short due to injury, the Clippers look to prove they can hang with the top teams out west.
Los Angeles will open the postseason at home against the Utah Jazz on Saturday.
"We had participation", Jazz coach Quin Snyder said following practice. If they can stay healthy in the first round, they should put up a good fight. "They know who they are, they're confident, they're one of the best teams in the National Basketball Association, and they're playing like it".
This was the reality: The Jazz topped San Antonio, 101-97, in a game that started 90 minutes before Clippers-Kings, meaning the Clippers needed a win to hold on to the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference playoffs. "We're no longer playing teams, we're playing ourselves", Rivers said. "They've been to the playoffs more than us, but it's just about going out there and competing". The Clippers' starters, despite injuries to Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, were the third most used lineup in the league and outscored their opponents by 15.8 points per 100 possessions with their starters on the floor together. Their worst stretch was a six-game skid between Christmas and New Year's and they responded by starting the new year on a seven-game winning streak, equaling their longest of the season. The playoffs are about to start and this literally what we spent all last summer, the preseason and the regular season preparing for.
And so, the sense of urgency is squarely with the Clippers.
Hayward possesses a player option for the 2017-18 season - something he is widely expected to decline. DeAndre Jordan is a Defensive Player of the Year candidate once again, manning the middle for a Clippers team deeper than it's ever been. To get past the first round, the Jazz will need even more from the underrated Joe Ingles who is shooting 44.1 percent from the three-point line this season and Joe Johnson who averaged just 9.2 points per game on the season. Their three point defence, however, was below the league average, with opposing teams shooting 35.76% from beyond the arc. Since the All-Star break Griffin has attempted 3.1 shots from beyond the arc per game and made 35.1 percent of them.
It seems like in every conversation about the Clippers in the playoffs, that is the first fact people bring up. Truthfully though, I think Utah's lack of playoff experience will be the determining factor here.
"Does that mean there's no residual effect?" he asked. They want to get out and run and do it well when they are fully fit - which admittedly has been a problem for them in recent times.
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