The Los Angeles Clippers officially clinched the second seed in the Western Conference Playoffs after defeating the third-seeded Denver Nuggets 124-111 on Wednesday night in the Orlando bubble.
The Clippers will next face the seventh-seeded Dallas Mavericks next week in the first round and the Nuggets will face sixth-seeded Utah Jazz.
“I don’t think anyone in our locker room talked about it. We really don’t care. We want to win it all,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said on the achievement of the second seed.
Paul George led the team with 27 points, Kawhi Leonard had 26 and Lou Williams added 23 off the bench in 25 minutes. Ivica Zubac had 15 and a team-high 12 rebounds.
George also eclipsed 13,000 regular season points in his career, becoming 1 of the 22 active layers in the NBA to achieve that feat.
“We know what’s at stake and we know what we’re here for,” George said on what Los Angeles is playing for.
Jerami Grant led the Nuggets with 25 points, while Nikola Jokic had 17 points, seven rebounds and 13 assists.
Denver outrebounded Los Angeles 27 to 18 in the first half and ultimately led 58-50 through 24 minutes of play.
However, the Clippers took command in the third with a 16-2 run that was capped off with a George three-pointer, making his second of the quarter.
Moments later, Leonard continued the momentum and took a steal the length of the court and converted a layup to give the Clippers a 77-70 lead with 4:46 remaining.
The Clippers quickly increased their lead to double digits in the fourth as Denver decided to rest its starters down the stretch with the playoffs already in mind, resulting in the 124-111 win for Los Angeles.
“We’re going to be smart about this,” Nuggets coach Mike Malone said. “As much as we want to win games, I also want to be healthy come playoffs.”
Los Angeles swept its regular season matchups against Dallas 3-0 but still know the first round matchup could present a challenge.
“They’re terrific. Best offensive team in history,” said Rivers on facing the Mavericks next week. “They’re a two star team. Porzingis is playing great. That’s a tough match up in the first round.”
The Clippers will be getting more reinforcements soon though with Montrezl Harrell having returned to the NBA’s bubble and Patrick Beverley recovering from a left calf strain.
The NBA Playoffs will begin on Aug.17 with the schedule still to be determined.
“I feel really good about our opportunity. I think we’re a highly talented team,” Williams said. The only thing that can stop us really is the effort we put forth out on the floor, how much we play together.”