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Posted Dec 22, 2013 7:17 PM - Updated Dec 22, 2013 8:46 PM
• After surrendering triple digits in each of their first four games this season, the Clippers have steadily tightened up on defense, holding their last four opponents and eight of nine under 100 points heading into their matchup tonight against the visiting Timberwolves at Staples Center. It's an identity the organization sought out when they lured coach Doc Rivers from the Celtics in the offseason. "I do like the trend," Rivers said before the game. "I think we've been trending that way for a while, defensively." L.A. will be up against a Minnesota team that has been stewing in the city since losing Friday night against the Lakers, 104-91, something that hasn't slipped by Rivers. "They don't want to go 0-for-L.A," he said.
• Kevin Love had 25 points and 13 rebounds in Friday's game, but recorded no points and one rebound in the fourth quarter, when the Timberwolves were outscored 23-15. Love, who was born in nearby Santa Monica and played a year at UCLA, has had a couple tough fourth quarters at Staples Center this season. He missed a game-tying tip-in at the buzzer in a two-point loss to the Clippers back on Nov. 11. Of course, the Clippers won't count on something like that happening again. After all, it was just two seasons ago when Love hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to beat the Clippers in the same arena.• Oklahoma City is 13-0 at home so far this season. A win tonight will set a new all-time franchise record for most consecutive wins to start a season. The old Seattle SuperSonics went 13-0 to start the 1976-77 season. Overall OKC has won nine straight games and 17 of the last 18 to become the hottest team in the NBA.
• Toronto has won three straight road games and the Raptors actually now have a better record on the road (6-6) than at home (4-8). The Raptors are playing perhaps their best basketball of the season since trading away Rudy Gay. They're 4-2 since making the move. Toronto head coach Dwane Casey says the reason is simple. "We're just playing better team basketball now. No one is trying to create their own shots."
• Indiana's Danny Granger played his first game of the season against Houston, contributing five points in 22 minutes. The veteran forward missed the first 25 games with a calf strain and sat out most of last season with a knee injury. Vogel said Granger came out of his first game experience of the year with no problems, and the coach planned to use him in a similar fashion against the Celtics. Granger "responded well and he's ready to go again tonight," Vogel said.
• For Boston coach Brad Stevens, the Celtics' game against the Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse represents a homecoming. Stevens played high school basketball at Zionsville, a suburb of Indianapolis. He went on to major in economics and play at DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind., about an hour from Indy. He made his mark as a head coach at Butler University in Indianapolis, leading the Bulldogs to back-to-back national championship games in 2010 and 2011. "There's a lot of things that are really exciting about (returning to Indianapolis)," Stevens said while admitting he hasn't had much time to enjoy it. "I've spent the last 24 hours, or whenever we landed, getting ready for today's game. The Pacers are fantastic." Stevens planned to remain in town for a couple of days after the game since the Celtics don't play again for five days.
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