The Los Angeles Clippers know they will have no one but themselves to blame if they fail to make the postseason.
They head into their regular-season finale against the New Orleans Hornets on Wednesday needing a win and some help to claim their second straight playoff berth.
The Clippers (40-41) are one game behind the Golden State Warriors for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. A Los Angeles win coupled with a Golden State loss to Portland on Wednesday would clinch the No. 8 seed for the Clippers, who hold the tiebreaker.
“We got one more game to see what’s going on, but right now we have to just take care of our own business and hope that Portland will help us out a little bit. We’ll see,” Clippers forward Tim Thomas said.
If the Clippers miss out on the postseason, Sunday’s 105-100 home loss to the Sacramento Kings will be a big reason why. Coach Mike Dunleavy was still lamenting that defeat after his team responded to Tuesday’s must-win situation with a 103-89 triumph at Phoenix.
“I was just so shocked about Sunday,” Dunleavy said. “I just didn’t know where that came from. The only game that we have probably had in the last 17 mentally we didn’t have it or that there was something missing was Sunday against Sacramento. We got one more shot (Wednesday) night with Portland, and we have to go home and take care of business with New Orleans.”
Dunleavy also admitted he was disappointed the Dallas Mavericks rested starters Dirk Nowitzki, Jerry Stackhouse and Josh Howard against the Warriors, who won easily 111-82 on Tuesday, saying, “It tells you they would rather play Golden State than us.”
With high expectations after winning 47 games and reaching the second round of the playoffs in 2006, failing to make the postseason in consecutive years could be devastating for the Clippers.
“Just two weeks ago we were fighting for seventh,” said Elton Brand, who had 21 points Tuesday. “We still have to go out and handle our business tomorrow. All in all, it’s still disappointing that it had to come down to this.”
New Orleans (38-43) has the chance to play the role of spoiler and close its season with consecutive wins. In a game with no playoff implications, the Hornets shot 55.8 percent (48-for-86) from the field in a 125-118 victory at Sacramento on Monday as David West, Chris Paul, Devin Brown and Bobby Jackson combined for 88 points.
“It wasn’t a defensive game, it was more like an All-Star game,” said Jackson, who had 20 points and five rebounds. “You have two teams that aren’t looking to make the playoffs. We were just out there to have a good time and try to make things happen.”
The Hornets have averaged 111.3 points over their last four games - almost 16 more than their season average of 95.6 - but also have given up 112.0 points per game in that span.
West scored a season-high 33 points while Brown matched a career high with 25 as the Hornets posted a 103-100 overtime victory over the Clippers on April 10. Brand had 37 points and 10 rebounds for the Clippers, who squandered an 11-point halftime lead.
Los Angeles had won the previous two games between the teams this season.