One of the Clippers’ goals this season is to have the top record in the Western Conference — and it is attainable.
To be sure, there are plenty of games remaining in the season, but the Clippers got one step closer Saturday afternoon to being the best in the West by defeating the Detroit Pistons 112-106 behind the inspired fourth-quarter play from Paul George.
His 15 points in the fourth quarter, part of the 33 George had overall, helped the Clippers move to within a half-game of the top-seeded Timberwolves in the super-competitive Western Conference.
The Clippers began Saturday afternoon in third place in the West, one game behind the Timberwolves, the team the Clippers will face here Monday night.
The Clippers have 31 games left in the regular season to see if they can end up on top.
“The biggest thing is to try to be No. 1 at the end of the season,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said. “Like, that’s our goal, to have home court for our fans for the support they have been giving us all season long and the last few years. So, for us to get home court, it would be huge, so that’s what we’re fighting for, to try to get that No. 1 seed at the end of the regular season.”
A frustrated Clippers squad fell behind by 13 points in the third quarter, leading George to be issued a technical foul with 4:34 , his chirping at the referees too much for them at that moment.
But George regained his composure and helped the Clippers get back on track.
His three-point play in the fourth quarter gave the Clippers a five-point lead. His back-to-back threes pushed the lead to 13 points.
Even with that, the Clippers suffered some bad news when sixth-man extraordinaire Norman Powell had to be carried to the team’s locker room after being hit by an accidental elbow from Detroit’s Jalen Duren.
The Clippers were sluggish for much of the first half, playing like a team that was unsure of how to push the right buttons when playing another matinee affair they have played plenty of times,
They went down by as much as 12 points in the first half to the Pistons.
It took a three-pointer by Russell Westbrook as the buzzer sounded to end the first half for the Clippers to break Detroit’s momentum and pull L.A. back to within nine points.
Kawhi Leonard finished with 24 points and five assists while James Harden contributed 14 points and eight assists. Westbrook scored 13 on five-of-10 shooting and Amir Coffey added 12 points.
Detroit had three players score 20 or more points: Jaden Ivey (23), Cade Cunningham (22) and Simone Fontecchio (20).