The Los Angeles Clippers are looking to make a deep run for the first time in franchise history.
"It is always nice to be home if you have to have a game seven", Clippers All-Star point guard Chris Paul told reporters.
Neither is the momentum they're riding. They clinched home court for the first round against Utah six months after starting the season as the NBA's hottest team at 14-2.
"This is the first year all of us have been together with the coaching staff".
And it's inevitable that the media and naysayers will remind them of that reality whenever the playoffs roll around.
"They're playing as well as anybody in the league right now", Utah coach Quin Snyder said.
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Both teams finished the regular season with 51-31 records.
"I feel like I'm way ahead of schedule; I'm doing things now that I didn't think I'd be able to do this early and I'm even surprising doctor's, so that say's a lot".
The Clippers survived a combined 42 games without Griffin and Chris Paul, going 19-23 in their absence. The Clippers did show positive signs by finishing the season with seven straight wins.
Two milestones were reached in the game as Doc Rivers became the all-time franchise leader in wins for a head coach with 216, and shooting guard J.J. Redick set the franchise record for most three-pointers in a single season with 201.
"The Clippers came out with a different edge", Hield said. Jordan had 17 rebounds.
Their sense of urgency may never be greater. "We will play our regular rotation against Sacramento on Wednesday".
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They have owned up to blowing a 3-1 lead against the Houston Rockets in the second round in 2015, losing the last three games of the series. In 2014, Paul had an infamous meltdown, twice turning the ball over and fouling Russell Westbrook, who made three straight free throws to beat the Clippers by one point in Game 5 of the conference semifinals. They almost lost Jordan, a two-time All-Defensive Team selection, to Dallas via free agency two years ago before a last-minute change of heart.
In fact, the Clippers have lost at least once at home in their last six playoff appearances.
The San Antonio Spurs would have won in Utah, locking the Clippers into the fourth seed by halftime of their game and thereby allowing Doc Rivers the luxury of giving his stars those extra minutes of rest before the playoffs start on Saturday. He could return soon. In his 13-year playing career, Rivers said, he does "not remember going into a playoff series thinking about what happened last year".
"Does that mean there's no residual effect?" he asked.
But if they can't get any further this year, you can understand if Doc Rivers decides to make major changes.
"At moments", Jamal Crawford said, "you're like, 'This is frustrating, to keep going out like this, to keep having good regular seasons and keep going out like this - whether it be through injury or self-inflicted (wounds)'". "Ultimately, we'll be one of the teams judged on our postseason success, so we're ready for it".
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