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Clippers have little time to savor win over Thunder

Monday's victory over Western Conference power Oklahoma City was exciting, but a difficult trip to Denver and Phoenix looms, and veterans like Caron Butler understand the team must maintain focus.

April 17, 2012|By Broderick Turner

The Clippers' victory Monday night over the Oklahoma City Thunder, one of the NBA's top teams and a serious challenger to win the NBA championship, was a stirring moment.

The Clippers also clinched a playoff berth Monday, going to the postseason for the first time since the 2005-06 season.

But Tuesday the Clippers went back to work preparing for another tough opponent in the Denver Nuggets.

"It's a sense of accomplishment, especially with everything we went through this short season," said forward Caron Butler, referring to the team's three-game losing streak last month that created a tense environment in Clippersland.

"Just for the organization and the fans, it's a great accomplishment. But you pat yourself on the back and you enjoy it that night and it's back to business again. We're still fighting for home court. We're still fighting to keep the momentum going into the playoffs. We're still trying to get better. Now that we've clinched something, we have so much still to work on," he said.

As one of the veterans who has dealt with the highs and lows of a season, Butler knew how to temper his excitement. He also understood why many of his teammates were so excited after the victory over the Thunder.

Butler, who has played in the NBA for 10 seasons, didn't say much at practice to his younger teammates.

"I think as a veteran player, I think a lot of guys looked at us to see what our reaction is," he said. "You've got to lead by example. You come in, you take a serious approach. You come in extra early and do the little things that you always do, keep your routine. Get some extra shots.

"You don't even talk about what just basically happened. I think when the younger guys see that, they are like, 'OK.' They follow suit."

Two-game test

The Clippers have another tough trip ahead, playing at Denver Wednesday night and at Phoenix Thursday night.

So much is at stake for all three teams.

The Clippers, currently seeded fourth in the Western Conference, are trying to move up in the standings past the third-seeded Lakers and they are trying to stay ahead of the fifth-seeded Memphis Grizzlies.

Denver is the sixth seed in the West and Phoenix is eighth.

"Denver and Phoenix have to win, but it's not about what they do, it's about us," Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro said. "We're trying to move up in the standings and trying to win games and play our best basketball here at the end and get ready for the playoffs."

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