PREGAME REPORT | JANUARY 9, 2013

 


Dallas

Tip-off: 7:30 p.m. | Staples Center | Los Angeles, CA | Game Notes »

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ERIC PATTEN 

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LOS ANGELES – After their first stretch with more than one day off between games since mid-December the Clippers take on the Dallas Mavericks Wednesday night at Staples Center, their first of two home games this week.

The Clippers (27-8) played five games in the previous seven days, and had back-to-back games or a lone day off between games every day since Dec. 12, when they practiced in Charlotte in the midst of a four-game road trip.

They have taken advantage of the time off. Lamar Odom was able to rest his sore right ankle, Grant Hill practiced for the first time since October, and Jamal Crawford, who has missed the previous two games with a sore left foot, underwent therapy and is officially listed as questionable.

“I’m getting there,” Crawford said at shoot-around. “We’ll see how it reacts after [shoot-around] and get to the arena and do a little more strenuous workout and see how it goes.”


Hill is hoping to play Wednesday as well, but will remain a game-time decision. If he does not play against the Mavericks, Hill’s Clippers debut may come Saturday against the Orlando Magic.

Dallas (13-22) has lost 12 of their last 14 games, including three in a row, despite the return of superstar Dirk Nowitzki, who missed the first two months of the season while recovering from offseason knee surgery.

“They play teams really well,” Blake Griffin said. “You know Dirk is always dangerous. They have a dangerous team, a team that can get going. We know [Chris] Kaman. We know a lot of those guys. So we’ve got to be on it right out of the game and not give them confidence right away.”

“They’ve been in all of their games,” Crawford added. “They’ve lost their last nine overtime games, so they’ve been there they just haven’t closed the deal.”

LAST TIME OUT

Clippers 115, Warriors 89: The Clippers avenged a season-worst loss at Golden State with a landslide victory at Staples Center Saturday night, concluding a stretch of four games in five nights. With the help of Griffin’s 14 first-quarter points the Clippers jumped out to a 35-12 lead and extended it to as large as 39 points in the third quarter. Griffin finished with 20 points and Chris Paul added a game-high 27 points on 10-of-12 shooting (5-of-6 from 3-point range).

“We had a good feel about what to expect,” Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said. “I think everyone wanted to get the bad taste out of their mouth a little bit from our performance in Oakland. Golden State is having a very good year and we knew we had to play a very solid game.”

The Clippers committed just nine turnovers, had 29 assists on 47 field goals and out-rebounded the Warriors, 41-30, in arguably their most dominant performance of the season.

Jazz 100, Mavericks 94: Gordon Hayward scored a season-high 27 points to help host Utah send the Mavericks to their third-straight loss. The Mavericks are 5-15 on the road on the year and despite hanging around for much of the night, they were done in by Hayward’s shooting effort, which included a 3-pointer that extended a four-point game to seven with 2:18 left. Nowitzki scored 20 points with five rebounds and five assists and Kaman added 14 points and nine rebounds.

NOTEWORTHY MATCHUP

Blake Griffin vs. Dirk Nowitzki. The Clippers have yet to see Nowitzki this season. He returned to the starting lineup two games ago and has been active for the last five overall. In some respects it goes without saying that the Mavericks are a completely different team with their 11-time All-Star in the lineup. “Dirk is a tremendous player, one of the tops in the league,” Del Negro said. “He’s had the injury but he’s coming back now and he’s always a factor when he’s on the court.”

”He’s a perennial All-Star; one of the best power forwards to ever play,” Paul said. “He changes the whole game plan. I’m sure their team plays with a lot more confidence.”

While the offense greatly improves with Nowitzki alongside Kaman, the Mavericks are still trying to figure out how to manage the defensive end of the floor. They have allowed at least 99 points in their four losses since Nowitzki returned, including 39.0 points in the paint.

That’s where Griffin comes in. He’s averaged 19.3 points and 12.4 rebounds in eight-career games versus the Mavericks. In the Dec. 5 game (22-point win by the Clippers) he scored 19 points with 13 boards, leading an onslaught of 62 paint points for the Clippers. That came without Nowitzki, who is not yet at full strength and is not known as a defensive stalwart when healthy.

TWO THINGS TO WATCH

Mavericks Turnovers, Clippers Steals. Despite committing 13 or fewer turnovers in their last three games (all losses), including a season-low tying nine versus New Orleans, the Mavericks are still 18th in the NBA in turnovers per game (15.1). In Dallas’ 112-90 loss at Staples Center a month ago, they turned the ball over 22 times, leading to 26 points and an array of highlights on the break. Protecting the ball has been a problem for Clippers opponents throughout their historic start. They lead the league in points off turnovers (21.6 per game), steals (10.8) and are the only team averaging more than 20 points off turnovers since December 1.

Benches. Part of the Clippers’ defensive success stems from their reserve unit. In 230 minutes played together, the group of Crawford, Odom, Eric Bledsoe, Matt Barnes and Ronny Turiaf are holding opponents to 37.8% shooting and 84.7 points per 48 minutes.

They are also the second-leading scoring bench in the league, averaging 41.1 points per game. Dallas is No. 4 in bench points and the group was only bolstered by the return of Nowitzki which slotted former Clipper Elton Brand as a backup big man. Add Vince Carter, energetic rookie Jae Crowder and speedy guard Rodrique Beaubois and Dallas can create problems of their own.

At shoot-around Crawford specifically mentioned Carter, who has made 67 3-pointers on the season. “I think Vince Carter is kind of hitting his second stride [in his career],” Crawford said.

NOTES

Brandan Wright (left quadriceps strain), who has missed the last three games, is day-to-day… If Carter scores 29 or more points for the Mavericks he will move into 30th place on the all-time scoring list… The Clippers beat the Mavericks in Los Angeles on Dec. 5, 112-90. It was the second time in a row the Clippers defeated Dallas by 19 or more points. The first time that has occurred in the history of the series between the two teams.

FINAL THOUGHT

After practice Tuesday Del Negro talked about what Hill brings to the Clippers lineup.

“He gives us more depth. He gives us more experience,” Del Negro said. “Defensively, he’s very difficult in terms of his versatility. He’s very good in the open court, he can handle the ball. Grant’s a top level player when he’s healthy so we’ve just got to get him back in game condition and get him accustomed to what we’re doing out there and it’s going to take a little while. He said his knee felt good today which is key.”

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