The LA Clippers have had their ups and downs this season, especially considering that they’re still dealing with a Paul George injury and are hoping that he’ll be back in time for the postseason. However, they gave themselves a leg up today after defeating the Lakers 125-118 – taking control of their playoff destiny and putting themselves in the driver’s seat for the fifth seed in the tightly-clustered Western Conference.
Buoyed by 25 points, seven rebounds and four assists from Kawhi Leonard, the Clippers took their 11th-straight victory against their in-town rivals. It was an extremely important victory because the Lakers were on a roll and had won four games in a row.
The Clippers now face a Damian Lillard-less Portland Trail Blazers and the Phoenix Suns to close out the season, and there is a chance that the Suns rest some of their key players in the game because they’ve already locked up the fourth seed in the West. This provides Leonard and his teammates with a very good chance of locking up the fifth seed, but that would also mean that they face the Suns in the first round.
Falling to sixth would allow them to face the Sacramento Kings, but that’s not an ideal situation either. The Kings may not have playoff experience outside of Harrison Barnes and Matthew Dellavedova, but they did win the season series against them and have the league’s best offense.
Fortunately, one win will lock up at least the sixth seed, because the Clippers own the tiebreaker over both the Lakers and the Golden State Warriors. At this point in this wild season, the Clippers will just be happy to avoid the play-in tournament and buy themselves an extra week to hopefully get George back into the fold. The Clippers already learned the hard way last year that making it out of the play-ins is not a guarantee even with the talent that they have on the team.
The Lakers still have a path to the playoffs
While LeBron James may be disappointed that his 33 points, eight rebounds and seven assists weren’t enough to help his Lakers beat the Clippers, he’ll be happy with the knowledge that there is still a path to the playoffs. With two games left, the Lakers are only one game behind the Warriors and own the season tiebreaker over them thanks to a 3-1 season series record.
The Warriors are set to face the Kings and Blazers to close out their season, so the Lakers will be needing the Kings to do them a favor. The Blazers game is almost a sure victory for the Warriors, so the battle between Golden State and Sacramento will likely decide the Lakers’ fate.