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Tuesday, March 28, 2006 

What are little Clippers made of?

We know that little girls are made of sugar and spice and everything nice, whilst little boys are made of snips and snails and puppy dog tails. In 13 games over the next three weeks, we'll find out what the Clippers are made of, as they face the toughest gauntlet of villains since the Tom Kennedy game show Whew!

And though the Clips may encounter close calls, narrow escapes and split-second decisions, they'll play not for $25,000 in cash but for home court in their likely first-round playoff series with the Denver Nuggets. With that in mind, let's turn our attention to the team's remaining schedule.

The Clips will play seven of their last 13 games at home, starting with this week's season-series rubber matches with the Spurs and Jazz. The 13 games include three brutal back-to-backs (vs. DEN/@ PHX Apr. 4-5, @ LAL/vs. DAL Apr. 9-10, @ MEM/@ DAL Apr. 18-19). Only three games with playoff outsiders remain, one with the Blazers and two with the vastly improved Sonics.

With Cuttino Mobley and Zeljko Rebraca due back tonight, Coach Dunleavy will have 13 games to fine-tune his finally fully healthy roster. And though I truly believe the matchups are set (the DAL-SAN winner against SAC and the DAL-SAN loser against MEM in one bracket, PHX-LAL and DEN-LAC in the other), there remains much to play for:

-- A number of teams have beaten San Antonio once. Heck, Seattle did it Sunday night. To take the season series with the Spurs would make a far louder statement.
-- The Clips have to get a game off the Kings to get the monkey off their back. When a team -- especially an inferior one -- sweeps you in back-to-back seasons, they gain an enormous psychological advantage over you. It would be great to exorcise the Clips' demons at Arco Apr. 2, but even a win at home Apr. 7 would put next season's games in play. Lose both, and the Clips will be at a significant disadvantage all four times next year.
-- The Apr. 4 home game with Denver could determine home court in the first round. The Clips handled the Nuggets easily Jan. 27-28, but the Nugz have refortified their roster with Reggie Evans and Ruben Patterson and Coach Karl has them clicking on all cylinders.
-- The Lakers would have to go on a major tear, and the Clips completely collapse, for the purple and gold to wrest the sixth seed away. But if the 6 spot is still in play, the "road" game at the Lakers Apr. 9 could decide it.
-- Finally, you want to get a game off Dallas and you'd like to show Memphis you can beat them at FedEx. But with the Mavs and Grizz in the opposite bracket, those games will be more important in terms of the Clips' overall record than as statement games.

Click on Clipper Talk and join the discussion. -- Jordan

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