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Upbeat Clippers rest, look forward to building momentum for playoffs

With a franchise best 51-26 record and after clinching first division title, Clippers say priority is to go into postseason strong. They could improve playoff position if they win their last five games.

April 09, 2013|By Broderick Turner, Los Angeles Times
  • Clippers forward Blake Griffin celebrates after hitting a three-pointer late the win over the Lakers on Sunday.
Clippers forward Blake Griffin celebrates after hitting a three-pointer… (Mark J. Terrill / Associated…)

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A day after winning the franchise's first Pacific Division title, the Clippers let it all soak in by resting Monday.

The Clippers have a 51-26 record, the best in franchise history. They swept the four-game series from the Lakers, the first time that has been done since the 1974-75 season when the franchise was known as the Buffalo Braves.

All in all, the Clippers, who resume practice Tuesday, feel upbeat about their play and where they are headed.

"This is how it felt in the beginning of the season," Jamal Crawford said. "We only have five games left and if we can increase the momentum and start feeling good about how we're going into the playoffs, I think that would be huge for us."

The Clippers have won two consecutive games, both by double digits.

They showed signs of playing better defense, limiting the Lakers to 43.4% shooting in their victory Sunday and getting six steals. The Clippers also held the Phoenix Suns to 45.5% shooting in their win last Wednesday and got 14 steals.

Indeed, although the Clippers have only five-regular season games left — they play the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday at Staples Center —- they have the opportunity to improve their playoff position if they win out.

The Clippers are guaranteed at least the fourth seeding in the Western Conference because they are a division winner. But the fifth-seeded Grizzlies (52-25) currently have a better record and would have the home-court advantage over the Clippers if Memphis finishes with a better record.

The Clippers and Grizzlies meet Saturday night in Memphis in a game that could establish which team starts the playoffs at home.

The Clippers and Grizzlies met in a memorable, seven-game first-round playoff series last season that the Clippers won.

"We just want to continue to work hard and now keep playing the right way going into the playoffs," Chris Paul said. "We've been saying for a while that we can only get better. So, if we keep this pace up, we'll be OK."

Griffin likes progress

Blake Griffin recalled that he was in college at Oklahoma when the Oklahoma City Thunder won only 23 games in its first season in town after moving from Seattle.

The next season the Thunder reached the playoffs, only to lose in the first round in 2010 to the Lakers. Then, the Thunder lost in the Western Conference finals in 2011 to the Dallas Mavericks, and then the Thunder won the West before losing in the 2012 NBA Finals to the Miami Heat.

Seeing how the Clippers are headed toward back-to-back playoff appearances for the first time since the 1991-92 and 1992-93 teams, Griffin likes the steps the Clippers are taking.

"You just have to keep moving in the right direction," Griffin said. "It's not always going to be at a fast pace, but you have to keep taking those steps."

broderick.turner@latimes.com

twitter.com/BA_Turner

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