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Clippers are relatively healthy heading toward playoffs

They're not injury-free, but the Clippers appear in pretty good shape for the postseason. Chauncey Billups, who has sat out most of the season, says he'll be ready.

April 10, 2013|By Kevin Baxter

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Miami held Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh out of Wednesday's game in Washington. A couple of hours later the Nuggets, who recently lost Danilo Gallinari for the season, played the banged-up Spurs without Ty Lawson.

And the Knicks expect to be missing Marcus Camby, Tyson Chandler and Kenyon Martin on Thursday in Chicago, where the Bulls will be without Joakim Noah.

With the end of the regular season just a week away, several playoff teams are limping toward the finish line, struggling to either manage injuries or to rest key players in preparation for the postseason.

But don't expect the Clippers to follow suit, Coach Vinny Del Negro said Wednesday.

"Those teams … have had to rest those guys for injury reasons," said Del Negro, who plans to give everyone his normal playing time over the season's final four games. "Luckily, we're pretty healthy. Some guys are fighting nagging injuries at this stage, as most guys are."

One of those guys is forward Blake Griffin, who started Wednesday against Minnesota despite being bothered by a swollen and bruised left calf.

Time's on their side

Speaking of rest, although guard Chris Paul missed 12 games because of injury, only Griffin has played more minutes for the Clippers this season. And only Griffin, Paul and sixth man Jamal Crawford have averaged as many as 28 minutes a game.

"We have depth, so at times certain guys probably deserve more minutes," Del Negro said. "But that depth makes us a stronger team. We have to use that to an advantage."

That strategy has certainly cost Paul, whose 331/2-minutes-a-game average is a career low. But that could leave him fresher heading into the postseason, hopes Del Negro, who expects the point guard's playing time to grow down the stretch.

"His minutes will increase as we get to the playoffs, no question," the coach said.

Billups update

Speaking of injuries, guard Chauncey Billups missed his sixth consecutive game Wednesday because of a strained right groin. The 16-year veteran, who has played just 20 games this season, wouldn't hazard a guess as to when he might return, but he said he's pointing for the playoffs.

"I'm back on the court pretty much doing, not everything, but in short increments," he said. "We scrimmaged a little bit yesterday, I did that. Went through the whole kind of shooting practice thing today, so I'm doing a lot.

"In my eyes, this is all still the preseason.... The real season is coming up and I'm going to be ready."

Twitter: @kbaxter11

Times staff writer Melissa Rohlin contributed to this report.

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