If Coach Alvin Gentry's recent prediction that it will take at least 45 victories to make the playoffs is correct, the Clippers, a .500 team through 60 games, must go 15-7 or better in their final 22 games. Can it be done?
"We better believe we can," he said. "The one thing we did last year, and we've got to concentrate on doing again this year, is making sure we play our best basketball in March and April."
The Clippers defeated the Golden State Warriors on Saturday, so they are undefeated in March.
However, they begin a four-game trip tonight against the Bucks at Milwaukee and will be without at least two key players for the rest of the regular season. Small forward Corey Maggette, who has an injured right hand, and backup point guard Keyon Dooling (sprained left ankle) are not expected to play again.
What's more, their most versatile player, Lamar Odom, probably won't play for at least another month because of a sprained right wrist and ankle. Both were still in casts as of Monday.
The Clippers (30-30) were ninth in the Western Conference before Tuesday's games, three games behind the Seattle SuperSonics, who occupy the eighth and final playoff spot.
Gentry remains hopeful.
"It's come down to the fact that there's no magic, no secret to it," he said. "We've got to win some games now. It doesn't matter where they are played. There's a team ahead of us and we've got to catch it. There's also a team right behind us [Phoenix].
"I like our position, our predicament. We have something tangible to play for. Our goal from Day 1 has been to make the playoffs. It's still in sight."
Shooting guard Eric Piatkowski sat out Monday's practice because of what Gentry called "a little tweak" in a groin muscle. Piatkowski is expected to play tonight. He was injured during the Clippers' victory Saturday over the Warriors.
Michael Jordan, who had knee surgery last Wednesday, almost certainly will not play against the Clippers when the Washington Wizards visit Staples Center on March 13. Coach Doug Collins said Tuesday it would be "stretching it" for Jordan to play again before the Wizards return from their six-game West Coast trip on March 21.
at Milwaukee, 5 PST
Records--Clippers 30-30, Bucks 34-25.
Record vs. Bucks--1-0.
Update--Tremaine Fowlkes signed a second 10-day contract Tuesday. The Clippers begin their final lengthy trip of the season against the Bucks, who lost to the Knicks, 102-89, Tuesday in New York. A victory would give the Clippers their first series sweep of the Bucks since 1996-97. They have lost three in a row in Milwaukee, however. The Clippers' trip continues Friday at Chicago, a homecoming for Elton Brand, who played his first two seasons with the Bulls. The Clippers acquired Brand last summer and he's become their leading scorer and rebounder, averaging 18.7 points and 11.8 rebounds.