Saturday, 24 June, 2017

Clippers clinch No. 4 playoff seed with 115-95 rout of Kings

Oklahoma City Thunder Mandatory Credit Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Hilda Schwartz | 16 April, 2017, 02:59

The Clippers have playoff demons, and the impending free agency of Griffin, Paul and J.J. Redick does nothing but intensify the pressure. While the teams were on a playoff collision course for the final month of the season, playoff seeding came down to the final night of the regular season. This win locked up the No. 4 seed to give the Clippers homecourt advantage against the Jazz.

With some luck (and a key re-signing or two), this could signal a return to form for the Jazz, who will be making their 26th postseason appearance. The Clippers had to beat the Kings to end up tied with Utah at 51-31, and they owned the tiebreaker by virtue of winning the season series 3-1.

What others see as playoff follies and evidence that the Clippers are doomed to repeat history, Rivers, who coached the Boston Celtics to the 2008 title, sees as part of the franchise's journey to the top.

The Jazz, who defeated the Spurs on Wednesday, 101-97, finished with an identical record to the Clippers.

"We won the game, we have home court, it's all good", Rivers said. Buddy Hield had 16, Ben McLemore added 15 and Galloway contributed 14. All but one of the games was decided by double digits; the lone Jazz win came in Utah by six points.

Utah hosted the second game, which was played on February 13; in another low scoring match the Clippers again prevailed 88-82.

The Clippers, who have the fourth-highest payroll in the National Basketball Association this season, know they could run out of chances with this core group after the season.

Korea hails results of Trump-Xi talks
The summit was already the most important in Trump's 11-week presidency, and the first conducted not with an ally but a rival.

A year later, it was a 19-point lead versus Houston in a closeout game that evaporated in the fourth quarter.

"We want to be known as a bunch of hard-nosed guys that care about each other and compete every night, and I think we've laid that down", Kings coach Dave Joerger said.

"The identity has changed, the culture's changed", Cauley-Stein said. "Obviously, we do see a lot of places where they can get better but that's what this is for - we're letting go out there and letting them play". Since Chris Paul arrived in L.A., only two teams have won more regular season games than the Clippers.

Clippers starters Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Chris Paul and J.J. Redick have played together since 2013-14.

Kings: They finished off the franchise's 11th straight losing season at 32-50. Austin Rivers, a top reserve along with Jamal Crawford, is expected back sometime around the time the series moves to Utah for Games 3 and 4.

When the deal went down, the Kings were just 1 1/2 games out of the final playoff spot with a favorable schedule ahead that included three games against Denver, the team that held the eighth spot at the time.

All five starters scored in double-figures with J.J. Redick leading the way with 18 points. Their mark of 14-2 was the best to begin the season, too. Center Willie Cauley-Stein will be in his third season and the Kings could have up to four more rookies after the draft and if Serbian guard Bogdan Bodjanovic joins the team.

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