PREGAME REPORT | MARCH 23, 2013

 



Tipoff: 7:30 p.m. PST | STAPLES Center  | Los Angeles, CA | Game Notes »

                                                          

ERIC PATTEN

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LOS ANGELES – Both teams have clinched a spot in the playoffs, but when the Clippers and Nets meet Saturday night at Staples Center there is still a lot on the line.

The Clippers (47-22) are looking to avoid a string of eight games alternating wins and losses, while the Nets (40-28) have their sights on extending a two-game winning streak on the road that’s seen them win by an average of 27 points.

“They’ve been playing really well as of late,” Chris Paul said. “D-Will (Deron Williams) and those guys really have it going and they’re just like us: trying to get ready for the playoffs.”

Much has been made lately of the Clippers adjusting their intensity to prime themselves for the playoffs and that starts Saturday, according to DeAndre Jordan.

“I think we obviously need to pick up our intensity a little bit with these 13 games coming up because they’re really important,” Jordan said. “They can justify our playoff position.”

The Clippers lost to the Nets, 86-76, when the teams met the day after Thanksgiving in Brooklyn. After jumping out to a 47-41 lead at halftime, L.A. scored just 29 points in the second half and in a bizarre final quarter Chris Paul accumulated six fouls in a span of about six minutes.

This is the first time the Nets have visited the Clippers since relocating from New Jersey this offseason. The Clippers have won seven of their last eight games against the Nets at Staples Center. They may have to go for their eighth win versus the Nets without Chauncey Billups, who remains questionable with a strained right groin. Eric Bledsoe (calf) and Ronny Turiaf (knee) are day-to-day.

LAST TIME OUT

Clippers 101, 76ers 72: The 76ers scored a season-low in points for a Clippers opponent and L.A. bounced back from a 15-point loss a night earlier in Sacramento for a convincing win.

“Just a solid win,” Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said. “I thought we did a very good job, controlling as much as we could Jrue [Holiday] tonight. He’s such a big part of their team. We kind of put an emphasis on him and that took them out of some things.

The 2013 All-Star scored two points on 1-of-8 shooting and had four assists and four turnovers. His counterpart, Paul, meanwhile, was 8-for-10 with 20 points, nine assists, six rebounds and five steals. The Clippers got double-figures from five players, including 13 from Willie Green and 14 from Caron Butler in a game they were trailing 10-2 before dominating the final three quarters.  

Nets 113, Mavericks 96: In their second game of an eight-game road trip the Nets overcame a 10-point first-quarter deficit and pulled away in the fourth at American Airlines Center Wednesday. Williams scored 31 points and Brook Lopez had a season-high 38. Reggie Evans added 22 rebounds, helping the Nets out-rebound Dallas, 45-34. Dirk Nowitzki scored 16 points for the Mavericks, while Mike James added 12 and a game-high seven assists.  

NOTEWORTHY MATCHUP

DeAndre Jordan vs. Brook Lopez. The two centers are quite a contrast from one another. Jordan is as athletic as any big man the NBA has seen, while Lopez is likely unable to leap over a shoebox. Jordan is shooting 79.5% in nine games in March (the highest monthly percentage in the league since 1985-86) on mostly dunks and jump hooks in the paint. Lopez, who was a first-time All-Star this season, is a more perimeter oriented player with a well-rounded back-to-the-basket game and face up jump shooting ability.

Lopez is the only player in the NBA averaging at least 19 points, seven rebounds and two blocks per game. Jordan is one of six players averaging 8.5 points, 6.9 rebounds, one block and shooting better than 55%.

In the last three matchups between Lopez and Jordan, the Nets’ center has scored at least 24 points in each of them. Jordan, who has averaged 13 minutes fewer per game, still managed to out-rebound Lopez in 12.0 per game to 5.0 per game.

On Friday, Jordan talked about defending him. “He’s a big body, man,” Jordan said. “He’s skilled. He can use both hands and has shooting range out to wherever. You really have to stay physical with him, keep your body on him and really just try to limit his easy baskets.”

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Board school. The Nets are third in the NBA in rebounding percentage (52.4%), due in large part to the insertion of former Clipper Reggie Evans into the starting lineup. Evans has averaged 13.1 rebounds over the last 20 games, making up for Lopez’s 7.1 boards per game in 30.6 minutes, which accounts for a 13.8 rebounding rate (39th among NBA centers).

Evans’ return to Staples Center will certainly be a conflicting moment for Clippers fans. In his one season in L.A. he quickly became something of a folk icon.  

“The crowd’s going to give him a huge standing ovation when he gets here, rightfully so,” Paul said.

The Clippers, though, have not been a porous rebounding team in their own right. After ranking near the bottom of the league in numerous rebounding statistics earlier in the year, they have won the rebounding edge in four of the last five games and Lamar Odom has helped.

Odom has pulled down seven or more boards in four of nine games this month, despite averaging just 20.6 minutes.

NOTES

Nets interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo is 26-14 since taking over for Avery Johnson… In 37 games against teams with a record over .500 the Nets bench has averaged just 28.1 points per game (22nd in NBA). By comparison, the Clippers have averaged 40.4 ppg in those games (2nd)… The Clippers and Nets are the only teams in the league that are undefeated when they hold their opponent to 42.0% shooting or worse. Los Angeles leads the league with a  record of 26-0, while the Nets are 13-0… The Clippers have a magic number of 5 to clinch their first-ever Pacific Division title.