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Clippers one win from clinching home court

The SportsXchange

LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Clippers did the expected Tuesday, beating the short-handed Portland Trail Blazers 93-75 at Staples Center.

Now comes something they must do: Go on the road Wednesday and beat the Sacramento Kings.

If they win, they would earn home-court advantage in the opening round of the playoffs.

A victory probably would leave the Clippers as the fourth seed in the Western Conference, playing against the Memphis Grizzlies, though they'd have an outside chance of earning the third seed and a matchup against the Golden State Warriors or Houston Rockets.

The latter depends on what the Denver Nuggets do against the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday. A Nuggets loss and a Clippers win would push Los Angeles into the third seed.

Bottom line, if the Clippers win, they open the playoffs this weekend at Staples Center.

On the other hand, a loss Wednesday coupled with a Memphis home win over the Utah Jazz would mean the Clippers would open on the road against the Grizzlies.

The Clippers fully expect the Grizzlies and Nuggets to win their games, and that puts the onus back on them to beat the Kings.

"We just have to take care of business, and that's all we can do," Clippers forward Matt Barnes said. "There are a lot of other games that have an effect on what we do, but we just have to go out there and handle our business."

It was the same obligation Tuesday against the Blazers, a task made considerably easier when Portland arrived at Staples Center with an 11-game losing streak and without starters LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews, all of whom have been shut down for the rest of the season battling various ailments.

Portland did have dynamic rookie Damian Lillard, though, and that's more than enough to get someone's attention.

After a tight first quarter, the Clippers got off to a sizzling start to the second, and they broke the game open. Los Angeles built a 19-point lead and essentially coasted from that point.

Caron Butler, back after sitting out the second half Saturday to rest a sore knee, scored 22 points for the Clippers (55-26). Blake Griffin added 16 points, and DeAndre Jordan had 10. Chris Paul contributed eight points and 11 assists.

Chauncey Billups, who missed the previous eight games with a strained groin, had four points in 18 minutes.

"We had a really good practice yesterday, and Chauncey being back really helps," Paul said. "I think there were a lot of possessions tonight where we executed. I really got excited when we ran some of our actions to perfection and paid attention to detail because that's what we're going to have to do in the playoffs."

The wide margin enabled Griffin and Paul to play as few minutes as possible -- with Griffin playing 27 and Paul 25.

That should help with the quick turnaround against the Kings on Wednesday. The game should be an emotional one in Sacramento, which is fighting to save the Kings from being sold to a group interested in moving them to Seattle.

"It's probably going to be crazy out there in Sacramento," Barnes said. "It will possibly be their last game out there. They beat us the last time we were there, so we need to go in there and take care of business."

The Blazers, meanwhile, are just playing out the string at this point, their season ending Wednesday against the Warriors in Oakland.

They were a mere facsimile of themselves against the Clippers, their starting lineup ravaged by injury.

Will Barton led the way with 17 points, while Lillard finished with 12 on 4-of-12 shooting from the field.

The Blazers (33-48) hope to end their long losing streak in the finale.

"It's tough, really tough," said Joel Freeland, who came off the bench to score 13 points. "It's been a difficult time, mentally more than anything to lose that many games in a row. We have one more chance to win a game, though, and that's our focus."

NOTES: The Clippers are 3-1 against the Grizzlies this year. "You gain confidence by winning," Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said. "We had slipped up a few times against some of the top teams in the West since the All-Star break. We lost tough on the road to Dallas, tough on the road to San Antonio but you've got to finish those games out. We weren't able to do that." ... Aldridge, Batum and Matthews were not with the team Tuesday and are not expected to play Wednesday against Golden State.
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