L.A. Notes: Playoff Race, George, Lakers’ Depth, Roster Spot

The Clippers kept the inside track on the fifth seed in the West, but they had to rally past a depleted Trail Blazers team on Saturday, writes Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times. Coach Tyronn Lue admits there was “a lot of cussing” in his halftime speech as L.A. entered the locker room trailing by six after surrendering 70 first half points to a Portland squad that was missing most of its rotation players.

“We gotta be more professional with our approach, and we all realized that wasn’t our greatest first half,” Lue said. “We didn’t play the right way and we just can’t do that. And so they understood; that’s why they came out in the third quarter and played the way they did.”

The Clippers have control over their playoff destiny and can wrap up the No. 5 slot by beating Phoenix on Sunday. However, that would guarantee a first-round series against the Suns, who are undefeated with Kevin Durant in the lineup. Losing to Phoenix would carry an element of risk, as L.A. could still fall into the play-in tournament. Lue assured reporters that his plan is to play to win.

“I mean if you don’t treat the game right, basketball gods will make you pay for it,” Lue said.

There’s more from Los Angeles:

  • Paul George is working out again, but he doesn’t appear close to returning from the sprained right knee that has sidelined him since March 21, according to Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. Clippers officials said George didn’t suffer any damage to significant ligaments, but he had to keep the knee immobilized for a long time to promote healing.
  • In Friday’s win over Phoenix, the Lakers‘ reserves showed they can carry the team if LeBron James and Anthony Davis are having off nights, per Elliott Teaford of The Orange County Register. D’Angelo Russell, Austin Reaves and Malik Beasley combined for 67 points as L.A. displayed depth that it didn’t have before the trade deadline and kept its hopes alive for a top-six finish. “It’s huge for those guys to be able to carry the load and make some shots and have their own different segments during the game,” coach Darvin Ham said. “Huge, man. The more pressure we can take off Bron and AD to have to go out and save the day or make every play, the better. When they can just play manageable minutes and those other guys step up and play well, it just makes us that much more dangerous. And it saves some gas for our two big dogs.”
  • The Lakers still have an open roster spot, and Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report expects them to fill it Sunday, likely with a multiyear contract that is non-guaranteed or partially guaranteed for next season (Twitter link).
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