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CLIPPERS FYI

Clippers can make playoffs with win against Oklahoma City

The Clippers host the Thunder on Monday. They can also clinch their first playoff berth since the 2005-06 season if the Phoenix Suns lose.

April 15, 2012|By Baxter Holmes
  • All-Stars Chris Paul of the Clippers and Kevin Durant of the Thunder exchange greetings before a game earlier this season at Staples Center.
All-Stars Chris Paul of the Clippers and Kevin Durant of the Thunder exchange… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)

The Clippers are this close.

With a win Monday against Oklahoma City at Staples Center, the Clippers can clinch their first playoff berth since 2005-06, their eighth in franchise history and fifth since the franchise moved to Los Angeles in 1984.

They can also clinch with the next loss by the Phoenix Suns, who play host to the Portland Trailblazers on Monday.

Of course, even if the Clippers don't beat the Western Conference-leading Thunder, they still have five regular-season games left, including one at Phoenix on Thursday.

Those games won't be easy, though; entering Sunday, four of those five opponents have winning records.

The only opponent that has a losing record is New Orleans, and the Western Conference-worst Hornets visit the Clippers on Sunday in the Clippers' final regular-season home game this season.

The Clippers have won 11 of their last 13 games to reach the cusp of a playoff berth.

Coach Vinny Del Negro was asked before Saturday's 112-104 win against Golden State whether he subscribes to the theory that a team must lose before it can learn how to win.

"I think we've lost enough, in my opinion," he said.

Guard Chris Paul noted how the Clippers would love to win the Western Conference's Pacific Division. They're 11/2 games behind the Lakers in the race for that top spot.

Reserve trouble

An NBA team's second unit is in some cases just as important as its first unit.

The Clippers offered up a perfect example of that league-wide truism on Saturday.

Their first unit (Caron Butler, Randy Foye, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and Paul) built a big lead, then the second unit (Eric Bledsoe, Reggie Evans, Kenyon Martin, Mo Williams and Nick Young) let that lead slip away.

"Our second group didn't do a very good job controlling the lead, and that was bothersome," Del Negro said.

If — and seemingly when — the Clippers reach the playoffs, it's unclear whether that second unit will play as a whole for long stretches as it did against Golden State.

"If we play like we did [Saturday], then no," Del Negro said. "Those guys have to play better than that. They have to understand time and score and what's going on."

The Clippers had built a 24-5 lead in the first quarter against a team that had just nine healthy players, but that lead had shriveled to one point at halftime.

"In Vegas, we're not supposed to have to fight with that team," Jordan said, "but at the same time, this is the NBA, and when you have guys out, other guys step up."

baxter.holmes@latimes.com

twitter.com/baxterholmes

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