Coming off of a solid 126-111 win against the Mavericks, the Clippers announced that Kawhi Leonard (along with Montrezl Harrell and Patrick Beverley) will not play in their game today against the Portland Trail Blazers due to 'injury management, left knee soreness'. We've seen this all year where Leonard would sit 1 game in a back to back which Doc Rivers claims that that's the case here and the Clippers 'don't worry about other teams' but that may not be true.
The Clippers have been playing very strategically all year taking much precaution when any player gets hurt as they want to be ready come playoff time. In this case, the Clippers are showing their strategy as they might want to 'throw' the game. The Trail Blazers currently are in 9th place in the West and the Clippers want them to get that 8th spot or stay 9th and be at be at most 4 games behind 8th. This season, if the 8th seed is 4 games or fewer ahead of the 9th seed, those teams would compete in a play-in tournament to determine the 8th seed for the playoffs.
So, the Clippers want Portland to stay close in that race and eventually take the 8th seed. They believe that the Blazers can give the Lakers (who hold the 1st seed), the most trouble in the 1st round of the playoffs. This could be the case too as Portland has stars like Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum and other good players in Jusuf Nurkic, Hassan Whiteside, and Carmelo Anthony whereas other teams who are fighting for 8th (the Grizzlies, Spurs, Pelicans, Suns, and Kings) are very young and wouldn't be as much of a threat for the Lakers as the Blazers could be.
So who should Clippers fans root for to win today? The Clippers, obviously. But at the same time know that they should not be upset if Portland did win. Now if the Clippers lose today, that means they would have a 1 game lead over the Nuggets (who play the 5th-placed Jazz today). In other words, if the Nuggets win and the Clippers lose today, the Nuggets (who next play the Lakers who could counter and sit LeBron James and Anthony Davis) could eventually catch up with the Clippers. But, this shouldn't worry Clippers fans either. If the Clippers do finish 3rd in the West instead of 2nd, that means they could play the Thunder which could be a better 1st round matchup for them than playing Dallas. Getting 3rd means they'd face the Nuggets in the 2nd round if they and Denver were to win in the 1st which would have happened anyways.
Lastly, the Lakers getting the 1st seed may not be as much of an advantage for this season, as yes they would have home court for the playoffs, but we all know that there isn't really much of an advantage for that during this unprecedented time, but they also wouldn't know who to prepare for due to the 8th vs 9th game play-in that will most likely happen. Just know, the Clippers want the Lakers to end up preparing for the Portland Trail Blazers. Also with Kawhi out today, this helps him get 2 days of rest before the Clippers play the Nets tomorrow and then he will have 2 more days of rest after before they play the Nuggets on Wednesday.