The Los Angeles Clippers can thank the Utah Jazz for allowing them the opportunity to move back into the playoff picture. Now the Clippers will try to improve their standing in the Western Conference when they host the Jazz on Friday.
The Clippers beat Milwaukee 104-103 on Wednesday night to finish a 3-3 road trip. Los Angeles (32-36) won the last two games of that stretch and moved ahead of Golden State for the final playoff spot in the West.
“It’s been a very good trip for us,” Los Angeles coach Mike Dunleavy said. “Anything better than 3-3 is a great trip. We have played well on this trip, other then we have had some bad spurts. We need to try and build off this momentum.”
Los Angeles was able to move into eighth place because Utah beat Golden State 104-100 one night earlier, snapping a four-game losing streak. The Jazz trailed by 15 points in the second quarter but came back and secured the victory when rookie Paul Millsap hit his first career 3-pointer with the shot clock expiring and 7 seconds left in the game.
“I thought A.K. (Andrei Kirilenko) was going to shoot it,” said Millsap, 1-for-2 from behind the 3-point arc this season. “It got in my hands, it was like a hot potato, so I got it up and it went in.”
The Clippers have a one-half game lead on the Warriors and a one-game lead over New Orleans as they begin a three-game homestand with Friday’s contest. Los Angeles is 21-12 at Staples Center, though the team lost its last two games there to San Antonio and Detroit.
The Clippers played well on Wednesday, leading by as many as 22 points in the third quarter before the Bucks rallied. Corey Maggette scored 22 points and Jason Hart had a season-high 12 points, including the game-winning shot with 3 seconds left.
“It was a good trip. It wasn’t a great trip,” said Clippers forward Elton Brand, who has five double-doubles in his last seven games. “We actually squandered two fourth-quarter leads…but we did win three. So we’re going back home, we’ve got to protect our eighth seed and try to get up to seven.”
Utah (44-23) is comfortably ahead in the Northwest Division and trying to put together another long winning streak. Before matching their season-high losing streak, the Jazz had won six in a row.
Utah scored more than 100 points on Tuesday for the first time since a 120-95 win over Charlotte on March 5, and shot better than 50 percent for the first time since that victory.
“I just wanted to go get every one,” said Boozer, who is fifth in the league with 11.7 boards per game. “It’s my responsibility to rebound and I focus on doing that.”
Utah has won the first three meetings against Los Angeles this season, all by at least 10 points. The Jazz have won 11 of the last 16 in the series, though all five Clippers’ wins in that span have come at home.