PREGAME REPORT | FEBRUARY 21, 2013
Tipoff: 7:30 p.m. PST | STAPLES Center | Los Angeles, CA | Game Notes »
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LOS ANGELES – The break is over. Now, let the stretch run begin.
The Clippers (39-17) closed the final week before All-Star Weekend with four consecutive wins before getting a week off between games. It was a hectic stretch that included an eight-game road trip and four games in five days.
They return to the floor Thursday night in their third matchup of the season with the San Antonio Spurs (43-12), seeking to clinch the season series against the league’s top team. A win would pull the Clippers to within 3.5 games of the Spurs.
According to Head Coach Vinny Del Negro, making a run at the No. 1 seed in the West is something the Clippers have set their sights on.
“That’s the plan,” Del Negro said. “We have to win basketball games and play at a high level. The biggest thing for us is to stay healthy and play good basketball at the right time of the season. There’s still a lot of basketball left. We have to stay focused and control what we can control and that’s our preparation going into games, being able to execute our game plan, having different lineups out there now that we’re healthy and getting that adjusted a little bit.”
Aside from Trey Thompkins, who remains out with a bone bruise in his knee, the entire roster practiced Wednesday. Lamar Odom, who sustained an abrasion to his left eye last week against the Lakers, is expected to play. And while Grant Hill and Chauncey Billups may continue to play limited minutes, Del Negro said he doesn’t expect anyone else to be under any kind of playing time restrictions.
The Spurs are at full strength as well. The San Antonio Express-News reported Wednesday that forward Stephen Jackson is expected to re-join the team in Los Angeles to play the Clippers. Jackson had been away from the team for personal reasons since Feb. 11. Still, the Spurs, who have played without Jackson, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan at various times of late, have won 15 of their last 16 games.
“San Antonio is playing at a very high level as they always do,” Del Negro said. “We obviously have to play very well and execute our plan, be able to make some adjustments. So we’ll see. It’s a little different.”
LAST TIME OUT
Clippers 125, Lakers 101: Blake Griffin outscored the Lakers, 18-17, in the first quarter on 9-of-10 shooting and the Clippers rolled past the Lakers to clinch the season series over their city mates for the first time since 1992-93. Griffin scored the first 10 points of the game and the Clipper led 15-0 before a Steve Nash runner ended the Laker drought more than five minutes into the opening quarter.
“It is great to get off to a good start, but the best part about it was our defense. The way we defended,” Griffin said. “We got a jump kind of early and then let them back in the game, but the way we finished was big.”
Griffin finished with 22 points and 10 rebounds, Paul had 24 points and 13 assists, and DeAndre Jordan scored 11 points with 12 rebounds. Billups, playing his first back-to-back game of the season, added 21 points, going 5-of-7 from 3-point range. The Clippers made 16 3-pointers overall.
Spurs 108, Kings 102: The Spurs won for the 15th time in their last 16 games by getting off to an early double-digit lead and holding off a late rally by the host Kings. Tony Parker scored 30 points with 11 assists, but also committed seven of the Spurs’ 17 turnovers. Duncan had 14 rebounds and Danny Green chipped in 21 points on 8-for-11 shooting. San Antonio converted 28 of their 35 free throw attempts and made 10 3-pointers for the 16th time this year. They are 12-4 in those games.
TWO THINGS TO WATCH
The Clippers’ Backcourt. With Billups in the lineup this season the Clippers are 6-1. He helps stabilize the offense from a decision-making standpoint, but also helps space the floor. Billups has made nine of his last 14 3-pointers and has scored 40 points combined in the last two games.
“It’s more of a comfort factor,” Del Negro said of Billups’ presence in the backcourt with Paul. “The chemistry, how guys work off of Chris, how they work off of Chauncey. Chauncey can take the ball out of Chris’ hands sometimes and we can get Chris more live dribbles. You’ve got another guy that can make plays out there. He stretches the defense. Obviously he shoots it well. Another guy at the end of games that you can go to, make free throws. Chauncey is a valuable piece. We haven’t had him all year and you can see when he plays, he makes a difference because he’s a high level player.”
Shaking off the Rust. The Clippers have lost the first game out of the All-Star break in eight of their last nine seasons, including four in a row. However, they never went into the break on a four-game win streak during that span. For Paul, it is all about rediscovering that momentum.
“The plan is to pick up where we left off,” Paul said. “Obviously, we had a week until our last game last Thursday and then we play again tomorrow. Spurs played last night and beat out Sacramento, but it’s a good test for us to get back out on the court [Thursday] against the Spurs, get our legs back up under us [Thursday] and just start.”
The Clippers won the first two games of the series in November by blowing out the Spurs at Staples Center and then overcoming a 10-point deficit at AT&T Center a week later. They have not won a season series against the Spurs since Duncan was drafted (15 years)… The Clippers and Spurs are two of just seven teams with benches averaging 38.5 points per game or more… They are also two of the top three teams in the league in double-digit victories… San Antonio owns the league’s best road record at 21-10. They have never lost two games to the Clippers at Staples Center in the same season…
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