A recent three-game losing streak put the Los Angeles Clippers’ playoff hopes in doubt. A current slump by their crosstown rival, however, has the Clippers in position to earn the seventh seed in the Western Conference.
The Clippers look to improve their playoff chances on Sunday afternoon when they host the Sacramento Kings.
Los Angeles (39-40) is in a three-way race for the final two playoff spots in the West. The Clippers are tied with Golden State for the eighth seed and both teams trail the seventh-place Los Angeles Lakers—who have lost four straight—by just a half-game.
“If we win, everything will take care of itself,” Cuttino Mobley said following the Clippers’ 107-89 victory over Portland on Friday. “We’re just trying our best to get in. We get in, we’ll make some noise. The next three games are huge.”
Mobley had 22 points, six rebounds and seven assists Friday night as the Clippers won for the ninth time in 13 games. Elton Brand had 20 points, seven rebounds and three blocked shots for Los Angeles.
The Clippers were 35-of-40 at the free-throw line while Portland was 16-of-23. The game was the team’s fourth in five nights, but Los Angeles showed little signs of fatigue, never trailing and at one point leading by 27 points.
“I knew our effort would be there,” said coach Mike Dunleavy, whose team was coming off a 118-110 win over the Lakers on Thursday. “As long as we were executing and making shots, then we had a pretty good chance.”
While Los Angeles would win the tiebreaker over the Warriors based on division records, Brand doesn’t want the team thinking about that.
“This is up to us. We don’t expect any of them to lose,” he said about the Warriors and the Lakers. “I’m disappointed we’re in the situation that we are in now. We can’t look back—we have to win. We need to go 3-0.”
The Lakers host Seattle on Sunday and the Warriors host Minnesota. The Clippers and Warriors have just two games left after Sunday while the Lakers will have only one remaining.
The Clippers lost the first meeting against the Kings (32-47) this season, but have won the last two, including a 105-101 victory on March 30 in Sacramento. Mobley had 26 points to lead six Clippers in double figures, while Ron Artest led the Kings with 29 points.
The Sacramento forward had 13 points in a 125-108 loss to the Warriors on Friday after sitting out the previous game with a sore hamstring. He came off the bench for the first time since Dec. 1.
The Kings trailed by 21 points at the end of the first half, but cut the lead to seven entering the final quarter.
“They beat us pretty good in the second and fourth quarter,” guard John Salmons said. “That’s one weakness we’ve had all year—closing out our halves in games.”
The Kings have lost 15 of their last 19 games. After Sunday’s contest, they close out the season with two home games: Monday against New Orleans and Wednesday against the Lakers.
This will be the first time since the 1997-98 season that the Kings will miss the playoffs.