LOS ANGELES – The postseason is fast approaching, but it’s still a long way from now for the L.A. Clippers. Following a busy month of March, L.A. has just one game from Sunday to Friday, giving them a total of five off days. That means more rest and practice time for a team that’s needed it maybe more than any other team in the league.
While the Clippers have just one game, against the Dallas Mavericks, over the next couple of days, the Utah Jazz will take on the Portland Trail Blazers twice and the Minnesota Timberwolves. That is fairly significant since the Clippers (47-31) sit just a half-game behind the Jazz (47-30) in the fight for the fourth seed and home-court advantage.
While a lot of shifting could still occur, it appears the Clippers and Jazz are going to be locked into a 4-5 matchup in the first round of the playoffs. When asked about the potential matchup, Clippers point guard Chris Paul said he’s not focused on who his team will face in the playoffs, but rather ensuring they’re ready when they get there.
“I watched the games yesterday, and anything can happen,” said Paul. “You just never know. I think right now it’s still about us regardless of who we play in the first round. It’s about us so I’m more concentrated on how we’re playing and not who we’re playing.”
While he is focused on his team, Paul spends his downtime watching NBA games just like a lot of fans do. Unlike the everyday fans, however, Paul uses that intelligent brain of his to break down any plays and situations.
“I’m always watching like that,” added Paul. “That’s just the way I’m wired. I’m looking at the ATO’s (after timeout plays) that teams are running; if they’re in the bonus, is a guy is trying to draw a foul, what type of plays they’re running.
“I’m still a fan when I’m watching it. I watch it as a fan, but I’m also looking at it because that’s my livelihood.”
Forward Blake Griffin has also been enjoying the past couple of recovery days, and while many players saying they’re only focusing on their own teams, Griffin added that he’s been watching the games and looking at the standings as well.
“I watched the game yesterday, [I’m] looking at the standings,” said Griffin. “But at a certain point, some of it is out of your control. Nothing, but kind of hanging around and waiting, kind of like a necessary anxiety, but we all know what’s at stake and where everybody is.”
The Clippers are currently three games ahead of the Oklahoma City Thunder for the fifth seed and the Jazz sit five games behind the Houston Rockets for the third seed. With just a handful of games remaining, L.A. and Utah are on a course to play one another.
When asked about watching any particular games or analyzing them as more than just a fan, Griffin said he’s been watching more games of the likely matchup.
“Yeah, I think I’ve watched more Jazz games over the last half of this month than I normally would,” said Griffin. “A lot of times, if it’s two teams that aren’t even in the playoffs, I won’t watch that game even if it’s a good game. I’ll normally watch teams that we usually see, more west coast obviously/ But yeah I’ve watched more Jazz games for sure.”
The Clippers won the season-series three games-to-one, and will win the tiebreaker if the two teams finish with the same records. In the three games against the Jazz this season, Paul has led the team in scoring with 18.7 points per game and added four rebounds, seven assists, and 1.7 steals per game. Griffin played in all four matchups, averaging 16.8 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per game.