LOS ANGELES (AP) The Clippers began the regular season as the NBA's hottest team at 14-2.
It was just 17 days ago the Clippers melted down in the closing minutes at home against the Kings.
A year later, it was a 19-point lead versus Houston in a closeout game that evaporated in the fourth quarter.
But there was no such letdown this time. So you can excuse the Clippers if they want another shot at making a run. The Clippers earned the No. 4 seed and home-court advantage by virtue of winning the season series 3-1. "But no, sometimes you have to put in the time and you have to go through some trials and tribulations before you get to where you want". "We were playing well before it". "When teams miss, we get out in transition and that's when we're at our best", he said. They almost lost Jordan, a two-time All-Defensive Team selection, to Dallas via free agency two years ago before a last-minute change of heart.
Their sense of urgency may never be greater.
Six Clippers, including all five starters, reached double figures in scoring.
The Big Three of Griffin, Paul and DeAndre Jordan are in their sixth season together and still in pursuit of their first title. "I'm sure some probably feel it more than others, I guess, but I don't think it's as heavy as you guys think it is".
The Clippers have playoff demons, and the impending free agency of Griffin, Paul and J.J. Redick does nothing but intensify the pressure. But the Clippers enter the postseason mostly healthy and with the league's longest active win streak as they look to atone for last year's first-round upset loss to Portland that occurred after Paul broke his hand in Game 4. Blake Griffin, who finished with 15 points, had eight in the spurt, while Redick and Chris Paul added five each.
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"We haven't won a championship", forward Blake Griffin said, "but also know that it doesn't come that easily". "And it's very important our veterans are quality people and good players to take some of the hits for those guys and yet be patient with those guys as they grow and make some mistakes".
Cauley-Stein had 19 points and 14 rebounds, while Arron Afflalo added 18 points.
"The Clippers came out with a different edge", said Kings guard Buddy Hield, who had 16 points.
"I don't have any love for the Clippers", coach Dave Joerger said. "What's validation for it?"
Paul, like the Clippers, has never gone past the second round of the playoffs. "Really proud of our guys".
Both teams finished the regular season with 51-31 records.
Clippers: Redick made three 3-pointers to finish with 201, breaking his career high and single-season franchise record of 200. The Clippers outscored the Kings 22-12 in the final seven minutes of the quarter, and ultimately took an 87-73 lead into the final twelve minutes of the regular season.
While Paul has reportedly agreed to re-sign with the Clippers after this season, Griffin has been the subject of trade rumors as recently as this past February. He did not score.