Do Clippers players really care about standings going into the playoffs?

Nov 30, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul (3) and forward Blake Griffin (32) during an NBA game against the Portland Trail Blazers at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 30, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul (3) and forward Blake Griffin (32) during an NBA game against the Portland Trail Blazers at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

For the LA Clippers, this is a pivotal year. But are the players paying as much attention to the standings as some think they should be?

As the NBA season begins to wind down, teams are preparing for a variety things. While some teams are fighting for playoff seeding, others are more comfortable or even complacent with where they stand right now. The Clippers are one of many teams in the playoff race jostling for positioning.

This season, their opponent is the Utah Jazz, the team they will most likely be playing in the first round of the playoffs. The 4th seed is important for having home court advantage in that round, and it’s what the Clippers (5) are currently jousting the Jazz (4) in the standings for.

The importance of the Clippers getting the 4th seed is amplified due to the fact that whoever wins the series will probably be facing the 1st seed. If you’re gonna be facing the top team in the west eventually, you might as well go for the 4th seed to ease up your playoff journey as much a possible. But is this something that concerns the players at this time of the season?

Mixed Responses

After Saturday’s win over the 76ers, DeAndre Jordan was asked how closely he had been paying attention to the standings. His response: “Not at all.” Rather than focusing on where his team is sitting among the other top teams in the west, he claims his focus is solely on winning games.

Conversely, Blake Griffin said that he does, in fact, follow the standings, saying that “It’s hard not to at this point”, although he says he tries not to get too caught up in it. Though each and every game matters, he concluded that the team shouldn’t have to be using their position in the standings as “extra motivation” to win games.

Blake also mentioned that at the beginning of the season, coach Doc Rivers knew the Clippers would be matched up with the Jazz in the postseason.

Lastly, Chris Paul is known to put very little thought into standings during the regular season. Saturday, he told the media that the standings don’t influence how hard teams play in games. CP3 believes that “every game takes on a personality of it’s own”, and stresses that every game is a big game.

Each game is important

Despite having differing opinions, the players seem to agree that each game is just as important as the next.  This makes sense, considering that a win or loss against any team can affect the seeding.

The players were asked these questions in regard to their game against the Jazz on Monday, which they ended up losing. A Clippers victory and a Jazz loss would’ve tied the two teams in the standings, which lead people to believe that the game had more importance than other games. Instead the opposite happened, putting them another game back of Utah and a loss to the Bucks just furthered their distance.

Should the Clippers care?

It’s no secret that this is a crucial year for the Clippers. While the Clippers are far from being front runners to win the NBA championship, their postseason success could be a deciding factor for who will be playing (or coaching) on the team next season. With all eyes on this team, should the Clippers have a concern for the seeding of other teams?

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In the absence of Kevin Durant from the Golden State Warriors, the San Antonio Spurs have climbed the ladder for the first seed. They even came as close as having identical records after Monday night. The Spurs would be an ideal match-up for the Clippers in the second round, much more than the Warriors.

This is something that many fans are keeping a close eye on, and it’s very unlikely that the players are concerned with the seeding of teams they might not even meet in the playoffs. But with the future of this team as we know it on the line, perhaps the standings are something that should at least be in the backs of their minds. One team being in one position and the other being in another could be all the difference for the Clippers postseason success.

Blake has written in a past Player’s Tribune piece that he feels like the Clippers are at their best when they play with a “nothing-to-lose mentality.” He mentioned that they had that state of mind when they beat the San Antonio in the 2015 playoffs, a series where the Spurs were the all around favorites.

Whether or not the Clippers pay any mind to seeding, no one can deny that this is a pivotal year for the team.

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