Clippers 93, Trail Blazers 77

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Clippers did the expected Tuesday by beating the short-handed Portland Trailblazers 93-77 at Staples Center.
Now comes something they must do: Go on the road Wednesday and beat the Sacramento Kings.
If they do that, they will earn home-court advantage in the opening round of the playoffs -- most likely as the fourth seed in the Western Conference against the Memphis Grizzles with an outside chance of earning the third seed against Golden State or Houston.
The latter depends on what the Denver Nuggets do against Phoenix on Wednesday. A loss and a Clippers win would push the Clippers into the third seed.
The bottom line: If the Clippers win, they will open the playoffs this weekend at Staples Center.
On the other hand, a loss Wednesday coupled with a Memphis home win over Utah would mean the Clippers would open on the road against the Grizzlies.
Put it this way: The Clippers fully expect the Grizzlies and Nuggets to take care of business.
And that puts the onus back on the Clippers to beat the Kings.
It was the same obligation they had Tuesday against the Blazers, a task made considerably easier when Portland arrived at Staples Center 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.
Not that the Clippers needed much incentive knowing the stakes involved and their strong desire to not relinquish home-court advantage in the first round.
Thanks to a sizzling start to the second quarter, they managed to break the game open, build a 19-point lead and essentially coast.
Caron Butler scored 22 points, Blake Griffin added 16 and DeAndre Jordan had 10.
The wide margin enabled Griffin and Chris Paul to play as few minutes as possible: Griffin 27 and Paul 25.
That should help with the quick turnaround against the Kings on Wednesday in what should be an emotional scene in Sacramento, which is fighting to save the Kings from being sold to a group interested in moving them to Seattle.
The Blazers, meanwhile, are just playing out the string, their season ending Wednesday at Golden State.
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 just 12 on 4-of-12 shooting.
NOTES: The Clippers welcomed back Chauncey Billups to the starting lineup after he missed the last eight games with a strained groin. Meanwhile, Butler, who has been dealing with a sore right knee, also started. Billups is likely to play around 20 minutes over the final two games as he works his way back into rhythm and conditioning. ... The Clippers made a huge statement Saturday by going to Memphis and winning to gain the inside track on home-court advantage. 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."

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