Posted April 11, 2013 on AP on Fox
Although they've clinched their first division title and set franchise records for victories, the Los Angeles Clippers still have plenty to play for during the final week of the regular season. The Clippers resume their chase for home-court advantage in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs when they visit the New Orleans Hornets on Friday night. Los Angeles (52-26) added to its lengthy list of accomplishments Wednesday when it cruised past Minnesota 111-95 for its third straight win and franchise-best 31st home victory. While they're guaranteed a top-four seed in the West as the Pacific Division champs, the Clippers moved to within one game of fifth-seeded Memphis for home-court advantage in the first round. "We're starting to get our sense of urgency back and it's starting to show," said reserve Matt Barnes, who scored 14 points Wednesday. Los Angeles - 21-17 on the road - plays three of its final four games away from home, including a key contest at Memphis on Saturday night. The Clippers own the tiebreaker over the Grizzlies, having won two of three meetings. Los Angeles, however, can't afford to look past a New Orleans team that has lost six of eight and will be without forward Anthony Davis for the rest of the season. Davis limped off the court Wednesday after drawing an offensive foul in the fourth quarter of a 121-110 loss at Sacramento. He was diagnosed Thursday with a sprained medial collateral ligament and bone bruise in his knee, and further evaluation and an MRI showed no additional structural damage. After dropping four of five on their road trip, the Southwest Division-worst Hornets (27-52) play their first home game this month. They've won four of six at home, though one of those defeats was 105-91 to the Clippers on March 27. The teams split two previous matchups in Los Angeles. Former Clipper Eric Gordon had a team-best 23 points for New Orleans on Wednesday and finished with 24 in last month's loss in this series. The Hornets, who have averaged 91.0 points and shot 46.1 percent in the three games, will face a Los Angeles defense that has limited opponents to 42.4 percent shooting during the winning streak. "The past three games our defense has been really good. We're talking a lot more and the energy picked up," All-Star point guard Chris Paul said. Paul has also played a major role offensively, averaging 19.3 points and 11.7 assists while shooting 53.8 percent in recording three straight double-doubles. The Clippers have scored 113.0 per game while making 53.0 percent from the field over their last four. They should be able to continue that efficiency against the Hornets, who have surrendered 112.5 points on 53.0 percent shooting in consecutive losses. Los Angeles snapped a nine-game road skid in this series last month.
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