Lose, and the Clippers were going to travel to Salt Lake City to face the Jazz in front of their raucous crowd for the first two games of the postseason series.
The Clippers answered the call, winning their seventh consecutive game with a 115-95 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night at Staples Center.
With all five of the Clippers starters scoring in double figures, they now have the home-court advantage in the best-of-seven series that starts with Game 1 Saturday night at 7:30 at Staples. Game 2 is here Tuesday night.
“I wanted to win the game,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “I thought it was good for our guys to win. But honestly, home court was still more important. We got that, so that was nice to get for us. That’s a bonus.”
Around 8:15 Wednesday night, the Jazz defeated the San Antonio Spurs 101-97 in Salt Lake City, putting all the pressure on the Clippers to earn their victory, the No. 4 seeding in the West and the home-court advantage that would come with it.
That was incentive enough for the Clippers.
“You pay attention to scores just like you play attention to scores all the time,” said Blake Griffin, who had 15 points, nine rebounds and eight assists. “Once you play, once you start the game, I don’t think we said, ‘Oh, we’re going to sit out the rest of the game.’ I think it was good for us to come out and play this game and focus on ourselves and work on the stuff we needed to work on.”
But there was one small thing the Clippers looked forward to doing.
The Kings were the last team to defeat the Clippers, back on March 26, in Los Angeles, a stunning development because the Clippers had just defeated Utah the day before.
That win over the Jazz on March 25 had given the Clippers the regular-season series against Utah, 3-1, and gave them the tiebreaker in the event both teams finished with identical records.
And, well, both teams did, at 51-31.
But the Clippers won 11 of their last 13 games, taking control of their own destiny in the process.
They easily moved by the Kings in the regular-season finale.
J.J. Redick led the Clippers with 18 points, setting a franchise record along the way. He went three for seven from three-point range, allowing him to establish a season Clippers record for three-pointers with 201.
DeAndre Jordan shared game-high scoring honors with Redick with 18 points, making eight of 10 shots. Jordan also had 17 rebounds.
“Maybe a few weeks ago, our spirit just wasn’t the same,” Paul said. “Our defensive intensity wasn’t there. I think the past couple of weeks we picked that up. It’s nice to finish the season strong, but all that was to build habits for the playoffs.”
Game 1–Saturday | Utah at Clippers, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Game 2–Tuesday | Utah at Clippers, 7:30 p.m. (TNT)
Game 3–April 21 | Clippers at Utah, 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
Game 4–April 23 | Clippers at Utah, 6 p.m. (TNT)
Game5–April 25 Utah at Clippers, TBD*
Game 6–April 28 | Clippers at Utah, TBD*
Game 7–April 30 | Utah at Clippers, TBD*
* If necessary
Follow Broderick Turner on Twitter @BA_Turner