For those early in the season that thought the Clippers were the new boss in the Staples Center, in the words of Lee Corso “NOT so fast, my friend” The Lakers are again the Pacific Division Champions. The Atlanta hawks saw to that on Tuesday with a 109-102 victory over the Clippers to clinch the division for the Lakers once again.
Don’t feel too badly for the Clippers though, because the gap that has been Pacific -Ocean-wide for decades has shrunk to a crack-in-the-sidewalk sized gap in one year. The Clippers will be in the Playoffs and will have home court advantage in the first round as well as the Lakers. That is as long as they can beat the Knicks on Wednesday or if Memphis loses to Orlando on Thursday.
Joe Johnson scored 28 points, including a desperate 3-pointer in the final minute, and the Hawks held on for the victory over the Clippers moving a step closer to wrapping up home-court in the first round of the playoffs.
”The craziest I ever hit in a game” was how Johnson described it. ”I had no clue how much time was left or what even happened,” he said. ”I just heaved it up there. I wanted to at least hit the rim. I accidentally made it.”
Blake Griffin scored a season-high 36 points, while Chris Paul added 34 in a back-and-forth game in which neither team led by double figures until Atlanta went on a 15-2 run at the end of the third quarter, sparked by Jeff Teague and Josh Smith.
”I guess we just made it real interesting,” Paul said. ”We’ve got to use this game (Wednesday) as a huge barometer as far as what it’s going to be like in the playoffs. In the playoffs you’re not going to be able to get down 10, 15 and try to come back in the fourth quarter, because the game’s going to be way too intense for that.”
Memphis and the Clippers should be a very competitive series no matter which team has home court advantage. The Clippers won two of the three meetings between the two, but the Grizzlies won the most recent.
The Clippers will need more production from the guys other than Griffin and Paul in the playoffs. Mow Williams, Kenyon martin and others will need to step up.