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Clippers host Mavs with sights set on No. 4 seed

LOS ANGELES -- With four regular-season games remaining, the Los Angeles Clippers believe they have a good shot at catching the Utah Jazz for the fourth seed in the Western Conference race.

The Clippers (47-31) resume their bid Wednesday night when they play the Dallas Mavericks (32-45) at Staples Center.

The Clippers have been off for the past three days after beating the Los Angeles Lakers 115-104 on Saturday. Blake Griffin led the way for the Clippers, with 36 points on 12-of-15 shooting, eight rebounds and five assists. Chris Paul finished with 29 points and 12 assists.

Although the Clippers have won four of five and seven of nine, the losses -- one to the Mavericks and a stunning one to the Sacramento Kings, who rallied from an 18-point deficit in the final five minutes -- have generated concern.

"It's pretty obvious we've been better throughout the season," Griffin told the Los Angeles Times. "At the start of the season we were better. But I also wouldn't say that we're in a terrible place; the sky isn't falling. It's a work in progress, but we have been better. But we still need to clean some things up."

The Jazz remain a game ahead of the Clippers after posting a 106-87 rout of the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday, behind 30 points from Gordon Hayward.

Utah has two home games sandwiched around two road contests in its four remaining games. The Jazz host the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday before making visits to Portland on Saturday and to the Golden State Warriors on Monday. They meet the San Antonio Spurs at home on April 12 to close out their campaign.

The Jazz also have injury issues. George Hill (groin strain), Raul Neto (groin strain), Rodney Hood (knee soreness) and Derrick Favors (knee contusion) were all sidelined in the win over the Blazers.

After the Clippers face Dallas, they visit the Spurs on Saturday. Los Angeles caps its regular season at home against the Houston Rockets on Monday and the Kings on April 12.

First, though, the Clippers must solve the problem known as the Mavericks, who have captured two of the three previous meetings. Los Angeles lost 97-95 at Dallas on March 23 in a game the Clippers believed they should have won, but the Clippers faded down the stretch.

J.J. Redick missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer and Griffin committed a turnover in the final five seconds that cost the Clippers. Dallas also beat the Clippers 90-88 on Dec. 23 when Harrison Barnes hit a runner with 3.7 seconds left, but the Clippers played without Paul and Griffin, who were injured.

The Mavericks, who have been eliminated from the postseason, were defeated 98-87 by the Kings at Sacramento on Tuesday. Forward Dirk Nowitzki (Achilles) and guards Seth Curry (shoulder) and Wesley Matthews (rest) missed the contest.

"We threw some unusual lineups out there, because there are some things we need to look at," Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. "We had a lot of guys play well."

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