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The CW (Clipper Weekly): Fight to the Finish

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Current Record: 37-39, T-3rd Pacific, T-8th West

Last Week:

The Clippers entered the week with the opportunity to take control of their playoff fate and to put themselves in the drivers’ seat for one of the three remaining playoff spots. This morning, they are left still in control of their destiny, but very much in a fight for survival.

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Things started well with a narrow victory over the Lakers on Wednesday, piling on to their co-tenants’ recent woes, and continuing the Clips’ overall strong play. And for most of Saturday’s game against Denver, the team appeared to making a statement about their legitimacy as the strongest of these final playoff contenders. With EB doing his thing down on the block, Corey getting to the line at will, and Kaman sending Denver shots back, the Clips took an eight-point lead heading into the fourth quarter. A Clipper win seemed all but certain, given that the team came in with a 31-2 record when ahead after three quarters.

Yes, that’s 31-2.

But during a twelve-minute stretch which could potentially define their season, the Clips saw it all slip through their fingers. The jump shots that were going in all game started finding iron. And in a nightmare scenario, Allen Iverson, the guy who LAist had clamored the front office to trade for, went off, singlehandedly outscoring the Clips 15-11 over a nine-minute stretch, getting the Nuggets back to a tie game with under a minute to play.

Nevertheless, the Clippers were in position to win after a Brand putback gave them a two-point lead with 43 seconds left. But in a finish eerily reminiscent of their lone loss over the previous two weeks against Houston, unheralded scrub Linas Kleiza made a go-ahead three-pointer (his only field goal of the game) from the corner. Maggette was then stripped by AI on the other end on a potential game-winning drive, and that was all she wrote.

Insult to injury was added when the Clippers had to travel to Dallas last night and take on the best team in the NBA on their court. Playing shorthanded not only without Cassell and Livingston, but also Tim Thomas, who sprained his wrist on an awkward fall against Denver, the Clips simply didn’t have the firepower to run with the Mavs. The loss dropped the Clippers into a tie with the Warriors for the final playoff spot.

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Analysis of the Western Conference playoff race after the jump...