One of the Clippers’ goals is to have the top record in the Western Conference — and it is attainable.
There are plenty of games remaining, and the Clippers took another step toward being the best in the West by defeating the Detroit Pistons 112-106 on Saturday afternoon at Crypto.com Arena behind inspired fourth-quarter play from Paul George.
His 15 points in the quarter, part of the 33 George had overall on his bobblehead night, helped the Clippers move to within a half-game of top-seeded Minnesota in the super-competitive Western Conference heading into a matchup against the Timberwolves on Monday night.
The Clippers are 35-16 and have a .686 winning percentage, just ahead of the Denver Nuggets, who are 36-17 (.679) and also a half-game behind the Timberwolves.
“It means the approach for this season paid off, and that was [to prepare] as we haven't in years past,” George said. “But more so knowing what's at stake and the importance of the regular season."
He acknowledged the perception of the Clippers stars not playing enough regular-season games and having to deal with injuries has been a problem in the past.
But not this season.
“We just have the roster, we have the personnel, and now we're just putting it all together and we've been healthy,” George said. “Let’s call a spade a spade. We've been healthy, and I think that's what's really gotten us off to a great start.”
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,” 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.”
A frustrated Clippers squad fell behind by 13 points in the third quarter, leading George to be issued a technical foul with 4:34 left, 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.
Powell had to get stitches on the bridge of his nose but said after the game that he was OK.
“Yeah,” Powell said, “I’m tough.”
George was asked about his contract situation after the game. He was reminded that Kawhi Leonard agreed to a three-year, $152.3-million extension exactly a month ago. Around the same time, reports said that George, who also is seeking an extension, and his representatives would be having conversations with the Clippers about a deal.
George was asked, is the goal for both sides to come to an agreement on a deal?
“That’s the goal,” he said.
Is there any update?
“That’s the goal,” George repeated.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.