Clippers host Nets with playoff spot in sight
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LOS ANGELES -- Two days after the Los Angeles Clippers took down the team from Manhattan, they will work on conquering the one from Brooklyn.
When the Clippers handled the New York Knicks 128-105 on Friday at Staples Center, it kept them knocking on the door of playoff eligibility in the Western Conference as the division's ninth-place team.
An opportunity against the Nets (20-43) on Sunday could move the Clippers even closer to the playoffs.
Brooklyn is unlikely to share the same lofty aspirations. The Nets enter the second contest of their three-game West Coast swing having lost 10 of their last 11 games. They took Sacramento to overtime Thursday but fell 116-111.
"We keep saying we're in these games, then we lose by one or lose by two," the Nets' DeMarre Carroll told brooklynnets.com. "Someday, we got to get it. If we don't get it, we're going to keep losing games like this. I feel like this one (loss) hurt more than any other (loss) because we had ample opportunities to win this one."
When the Clippers traded Blake Griffin to the Detroit Pistons on Jan. 29, it appeared as if L.A. was raising the white flag on an injury-marred season. But the Clippers are 8-3 since Feb. 1 and have remained in reach of the playoffs. One of those victories was against Griffin's Pistons.
But perhaps more impressive than winning without Griffin is the fact that the Clippers (33-28) had their recent success with only three home games in February. They are now on a run of six consecutive home games, with one of those against a New Orleans Pelicans team that is just ahead of them in the playoff chase.
Further inspiring the Clippers is the fact that they are only 2 1/2 games out of the No. 3 spot in the West, in a tightly bunched field.
"It's important," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said after Friday's victory about the current schedule. "That's how tight it is. Teams are dropping, teams are moving up. It's a lot of fun, but you have to win games."
No longer with an upper-echelon superstar to rally around in Griffin, the Clippers have used a collective effort to awaken their offense. They have scored at least 122 points in five of their last six games, only failing to reach that number in Wednesday's 105-92 loss to the Houston Rockets, the NBA's top team.
The Nets, meanwhile, have given up at least 109 points in eight of their last 11 games. They all ended in defeat.
A solid rebounding team all season, the Nets had slipped in that area of late before posting a 51-44 advantage on the boards at Sacramento.
"Last game, coach was getting on us for rebounding, so I wanted to make an emphasis on it," the Nets' Jarrett Allen said, according to brooklynnets.com.
Rebounding could be key against a Clippers team that has DeAndre Jordan at center. The big man is coming off Friday's game where grabbed 20 rebounds, while scoring 19 points. It was Jordan's ninth game of 20 or more rebounds this season. He also has three 19-rebound games.
The Nets are expected to be without center Jhalil Okafor (illness).
The Clippers are expected to be without starting forward Danilo Gallinari (hand) and starting guard Avery Bradley (groin). Clippers guard Tyrone Wallace (personal reasons) is day-to-day, while guard Jawun Evans (abdomen) is out indefinitely.
Updated March 3, 2018