LOS ANGELES – Following their disappointing loss to the Brooklyn Nets, Kawhi Leonard and Ivica Zubac offered differing responses regarding the LA Clippers’ interest in the two-seed.
The Clippers are currently in a heated battle with the Denver Nuggets and Houston Rockets to keep the Western Conference’s second seed in their possession. Not only does retaining it present an easier matchup in the first round, but it could also spell a favorable second round matchup as well.
The loss to the Nets makes the Clippers’ path to securing the second seed all the more difficult. Wednesday’s matchup against the Nuggets, who sit one game behind them and hold the tiebreaker, is more crucial than ever to locking in the spot. A loss on Wednesday would drop the Clippers to third, and they’d no longer be in control of their own destiny in terms of getting that spot back.
“Yeah, we want that second seed,” Zubac said after Sunday’s loss. “We gotta secure that spot and, I mean, we want the best matchup.”
The two-time NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, however, has a different standpoint on the second seed.
“At this point there’s really no home-court advantage,” Leonard said. “No fans out there. No travel. I mean, I definitely think the healthiest teams usually win it all, guys that have their full rosters and bench. Hopefully everybody can get back and we can get a rhythm going with the guys that are here that usually play, we’ll see what happens.”
So do the Clippers care or do they not? As competitors, it’s hard to believe these guys would take it easy or even tank a game or two in order to get a favorable matchup. The Clippers are talented enough, from top to bottom, to beat anyone in the NBA, and they truly believe that.
Clippers head coach Doc Rivers put it simply when he was asked about how much he cares about seeding in the final week of the regular season.
“Zero. I mean, literally zero. I don’t even look. I know we’re the second seed. I know most likely we’re playing Dallas. Other than that, if you ask me where everybody else was at, I don’t know. People tell me, but I don’t focus on that.
“Here are the facts: If you’re good enough, you win. Period. But if you’re not, you will not. “
Through their first six seeding games, the Clippers have been very inconsistent, but have been good enough to win. That won’t cut it in the playoffs, however, and Rivers knows they need to be better.
“Hopefully we won’t play up and down in the playoffs,” Rivers added. “We definitely have been so far. We have one inspired game, then we don’t.”
Throughout the season, the Clippers have preached health as the most important thing on the list heading into the playoffs. So far, not so good. Patrick Beverley has missed the last three games after suffering a calf strain against the Phoenix Suns. Reggie Jackson tweaked his ankle in the second half of the Nets game and didn’t return. Montrezl Harrell just arrived to Orlando and is undergoing the quarantine period before he can return to team activities.
The Clippers have two seeding games remaining, one against the Nuggets and the finale against the Thunder, where they’ll look to make some final adjustments before the start of the postseason.