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Basketball / Sports

Clippers ready to make their push for a top playoff seeding

LOS ANGELES -- For better or worse, mostly better, these are the Los Angeles Clippers.

They had a 37-18 record before the All-Star break, lead the Pacific Division and are in fourth place in the ultra-competitive Western Conference.

"You are what your record says you are," Clippers coach Doc Rivers stated simply.

With 27 games regular-season games left, the Clippers begin their stretch drive to earn the best possible seeding going into the playoffs. Eight other teams in the West have winning records, and the Clippers will play 13 of their remaining games against this group.

They start the second half Tuesday night at Staples Center against the San Antonio Spurs, who have the second-best record in the West. And the Clippers, as has been the case much of the season, will be short-handed.

The team announced Monday that starting shooting guard J.J. Redick will probably miss the next two games with a sore right hip. Redick also missed the last four games before the All-Star break because of his hip injury.

"J.J. is out (Tuesday) and probably at least until the Memphis game (Friday), too," Rivers said before Monday's practice.

So far this season, Redick has missed 25 games with various injuries, including a broken right wrist and torn ligaments on the side of his right wrist.

Every team in the NBA must deal with injuries, and the Clippers have done well despite their list of walking wounded.

All-Star point guard Chris Paul missed five weeks, and 18 games, with a separated right shoulder. Paul played in the last two games before the All-Star break and he played in Sunday's All-Star game in New Orleans.

Small forward Matt Barnes has played in only 36 of the 55 games because of left eye retina surgery and a bruised right thigh.

Reserve guard Willie Green missed the last game with a right hip injury and also "might be out" against the Spurs, Rivers said.

"I'm really proud of the way we haven't really gotten down on ourselves because of injuries here and there," All-Star forward Blake Griffin said. "I'm proud of the way guys have fought. Guys have remained extremely professional."

In the Pacific Division, the Clippers lead both the Phoenix Suns and Golden State Warriors by five games.

The Clippers' .673 winning percentage is oh-so-close to the Houston Rockets (36-17), who have a .679 winning percentage and are third in the West.

But the Clippers remain six games behind conference-leading Oklahoma City (43-12), who they play Sunday, and two games behind San Antonio (38-15).

"I thought we gave away a couple of games," Rivers said. "But we don't ever think about the games we shouldn't have won.

"There's a couple there that we won where we're like, 'Wow, how did we win that?' We forget about those conveniently and only focus on the ones that got away. But overall, we're probably where we should be."

With two guards injured, Rivers said the plan is to sign another player to a 10-day contract, but he wouldn't say whether it would be Sasha Vujacic, whose 10-day contract with the Clippers expired Thursday.

Rivers said the Clippers will wait until after the NBA trade deadline this Thursday to make a decision on whether to sign another player.

"You don't want to have the extra contract," Rivers said. "You may need the (roster spot). I don't think anything is going to happen, honestly. But you just never know."

One thing Rivers hasn't spent a lot of time worrying about this season is the Clippers' offense.

They are the second-highest scoring team in the NBA (107 points per game), are third in assists (24.1) and are fifth-best in shooting percentage (47.3 percent).

Paul has the highest average of assists per game (11.1) and center DeAndre Jordan leads the league in rebounds (14.0) and is among the leaders in field-goal percentage (65.9 percent). Griffin is sixth in the league in double-doubles (32) and Paul and Jordan are tied with Golden State's David Lee for eighth in double-doubles (27).

The Clippers must continue to work on their defense, which has improved from earlier in the season when they were last in points allowed.

The Clippers now are ranked 15th in the NBA in points allowed, giving up 100.6 points per game.

"Obviously we've got work to do," Griffin said. "But I think the foundation that we've laid has been very good."

(c)2014 Los Angeles Times

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Distributed by MCT Information Services


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