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Clippers' fate is out of their hands

With Chris Paul resting an injury, they lose regular-season finale to Knicks, 99-93, and might have to start playoffs on the road.

April 25, 2012|By Broderick Turner

NEW YORK — The Clippers had control of their destiny, knowing a victory in their final regular-season game Wednesday night against the New York Knicks would give them the home-court edge in their first-round playoff series against Memphis.

It already was going to be a difficult situation because the Knicks were also playing for playoff seeding, but it became a tougher proposition for the Clippers when Chris Paul was unable to play because of a mild left groin strain.

And now the Clippers no longer have control over their fate; a 99-93 loss to the Knicks at Madison Square Garden saw to that.

If Memphis defeats the visiting Orlando Magic on Thursday night, the Grizzlies will host the Clippers at FedEx Forum in Game 1 of the Western Conference playoffs this weekend.

If Memphis loses to Orlando, the Clippers will host the Grizzlies at Staples Center.

"I know what's at stake and what that game means," said Blake Griffin, who had 29 points, 10 rebounds and six assists.

The Clippers fell behind by 18 points in the fourth before making a comeback that ultimately fell short.

Paul sat on the Clippers' bench in sweats, unable to help, agreeing that it was best to rest his injury.

"We talked about it and realized the playoffs are too close to even go out there and try to risk it," Paul said. "So I go back to L.A. tonight and get treatment all day tomorrow and keep getting treatment until the first game."

The Clippers lost both games on this two-game trip to fall behind the fourth-place Grizzlies in the Western Conference, possibly putting L.A. in a tough position if it starts the best-of-seven series on the road.

"Who cares?" Paul said. "I mean, I can't go by what everybody says [that Memphis is a tough matchup]. At the end of the day, we've got to play the game. We're going to go out there and compete and play. We're going to see what happens. If somebody can tell me who is going to win every series, we might as well not play."

Paul said he plans on watching Memphis and Orlando, to see who wins and to do some scouting for that playoff series.

He saw some encouraging things Wednesday night, including Randy Foye scoring 28 points and Griffin scoring 13 in the fourth.

Paul liked that the Clippers fought back from a 90-72 deficit and pulled to within 94-93 on a Griffin basket with 52.3 seconds left.

But J.R. Smith scored over his former Denver teammate Kenyon Martin for a three-point lead and Foye turned down a three-pointer and instead turned the ball over, leading to two free throws by Smith for the final margin. The Knicks will be playing Chicago or Miami in the first round.

The loss meant that the Clippers (40-26) have finished the season losing three of their last four games. That's not the momentum they were looking for heading into the playoffs.

"It's tough because we controlled our own destiny for this last week," Paul said. "We lost three out of our last four. It's tough. We still got a chance.

"I'm sure Memphis is going to come out hard and aggressive at home. Now we've just got to sit and wait."

broderick.turner@latimes.com

twitter.com/BA_Turner

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