Clippers-Kings Preview

The Associated Press

The Los Angeles Clippers are in control of their own destiny for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

The destiny of the Sacramento Kings' franchise, meanwhile, is far from certain.

The Clippers can clinch home-court advantage in round one Wednesday night when they visit the Kings in what could be the final NBA game ever in Sacramento.

Los Angeles (55-26) cruised in its home finale, 93-77 over Portland on Tuesday. Caron Butler scored a game-high 22 points and Blake Griffin added 16 in a team-high 27 minutes as the Clippers got plenty of rest as they try to improve to 14-7 in the second half of back-to-back games.

"It's very, very important," Griffin said. "We want to have home-court advantage in the first round."

The Clippers will gain the No. 3 seed with a victory Wednesday if Denver's franchise-record 22-game home win streak is snapped by the Western Conference's worst team, Phoenix. If Los Angeles and Denver win, the Clippers will host Memphis.

The only way Los Angeles will receive home-court advantage with a loss is if the Grizzlies fall at home to Utah.

Sacramento (28-53), meanwhile, is in the familiar position of playing a home finale that could be the last NBA game ever in California's state capital.

Wednesday will conclude the Kings' 28th season in Sacramento. Hours before this tipoff, NBA owners will gather in a New York boardroom to begin deliberating where the team will be located next season.

The Maloof family reached an agreement in January to sell a 65 percent controlling interest of the Kings to a Seattle group led by hedge-fund manager Chris Hansen at a total franchise valuation of $525 million, an NBA record. Hansen said he would raise the valuation to $550 million in response to Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson pushing a non-binding financing plan for a $447 million downtown arena through the City Council.

Two years ago, the Kings entered their home finale after Anaheim's City Council issued the bonds needed to entice the franchise and new federal trademark rights were requested.

"Pretty much every year since I've been here, the past five years, the last game of the season has been at home and it's been the same feeling - that uncertainty,'' forward Jason Thompson said. "It's just a little bit more into the media this year and things have been really going back and forth and stuff like that, so it's a little bit more emotion.''

On the court, Sacramento has dropped three straight and seven of eight. Second-leading scorer Tyreke Evans left after hurting his left knee in the first quarter of Monday's 104-95 loss to Oklahoma City, and coach Keith Smart said his preference was for the guard to sit out Wednesday.

Griffin is averaging 20.3 points on 62.5 percent shooting to help the Clippers go 2-1 against the Kings this season, though his 26 points made little difference in a 116-101 loss at Sacramento on March 19. He could match up with DeMarcus Cousins, who has averaged 11.3 points in the season series.

Chauncey Billups returned Tuesday for the Clippers after he missed eight games with a strained right groin. He missed all five shots and had four points and five assists.

"I was happy to be out there running around,'' he said. "I was a little too excited with my shots."

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