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PREGAME REPORT | DECEMBER 25, 2012

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Tip-off: 7:30 PM | STAPLES Center | Los Angeles, CA | Game Notes »

Rafael Guerrero

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Christmas Day. It’s one of the most joyous days of the year for people around the world. In the NBA, Christmas is a day to showcase some of the league’s finest talent and elite teams. For the second consecutive season, the Clippers will close out the slate of five Christmas games when they host the Denver Nuggets Tuesday at Staples Center.

“It’s a privilege, I feel, and there’s only so many guys and so many teams playing on Christmas,” Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said. “We want to take advantage of it and we’ve got to be ready to play.”

The Clippers (21-6) come in riding a franchise-record 13-game winning streak, during which they have held their last eight opponents below 43% shooting, also a franchise record.

They play host to a Nuggets team (15-13) that has had their share of struggles on the road. They have a 7-12 record away from Denver, their last road win coming against Sacramento on Dec. 16.


LAST TIME OUT

Clippers 103, Suns 77: It was no wonder Chris Paul was named the Western Conference Player of the Week after his performance in Phoenix. He scored 17 points, dished out 13 assists and had five steals to lead the Clippers to their first victory on the Suns’ home floor since 2007. The win snapped a 10-game losing streak for the Clippers in Phoenix.

With his effort, Paul became the first player since John Stockton in 1991 to have at least 17 points, 13 assists and five steals in consecutive games. It was also Paul’s 13th double-double of the season.

The Clippers closed out the first half on a 15-3 run to pull away from the Suns and continued to wreak havoc in the passing lanes, recording 13 steals as a team, including three in the final 5:39 of the second quarter.

Nuggets 110, Bobcats 88: Seven players scored in double figures as the Nuggets continued to dominate their home floor, earning their eighth victory in nine games at Pepsi Center.

They outscored the Bobcats 35-23 in the second quarter to blow the game open and went on to cruise to the win. Kosta Koufos led the Nuggets with 16 points on 8-for-10 shooting and protected the rim effectively as he recorded five blocked shots. The Nuggets blocked 12 shots as a team and shot 51.1% from the field in the win.

NOTEWORTHY MATCHUP

Blake Griffin vs. Kenneth Faried. Two of the most gifted athletes in the NBA will face off for the first time this season. Griffin is coming off his 12th double-double, scoring 23 points and grabbing 11 rebounds against the Suns. He leads the NBA in dunks with 74 and is one of three players in the league averaging more than 18 points, 8.5 rebounds and three assists. Lebron James and David Lee are the other two.

Faried is averaging nearly a double-double per game (12.1 points and 9.9 rebounds). He is also averaging nearly four offensive rebounds per game and is one of the few players in the league who can match Griffin’s athleticism.

TWO THINGS TO WATCH

Controlling the Paint. The Nuggets and the Clippers come into the game as the top two teams in the NBA scoring in the paint. The Nuggets average 55.5 points in the paint per game while the Clippers are averaging 47.5 a game.

But the Clippers are also ranked second in the league in defending the paint, allowing just 36.6 points per game on the inside. Their defense will be crucial if they hope to extend their winning streak.

On Dec. 20, the Nuggets showcased how dominant they can be on the inside. They lost in Portland by just eight points despite hitting only one shot from outside the paint and going 0-for-22 from 3-point range.

The Transition Game. Once again, both teams come into the game as the No. 1 and 2 teams in fast break points. The Nuggets average 18.2 points a game in transition while the Clippers come in right behind them at 17.8.

Despite the Clippers evident ability to run with the Nuggets, Del Negro made it clear that the team has to be careful about getting into a track meet with Denver.

“If we’re turning the ball over and we’re chasing them down they are very good in transition and put a lot of pressure on you,” Del Negro said. “We have to execute well offensively and have to do a good job in transition, a good job protecting the three. They’re number one in the league in offensive rebounds so rebounding; they’re number one in the league in points in the paint so there’s a lot of areas that we have to be very strong in, very smart with our execution.”

NOTES

Wilson Chandler (left hip) will not play. Ty Lawson (left Achilles) is probable… The Clippers won the season series against Denver last season for the first time since the 2005-06 season. The Clippers won three of four but split the two games at Staples Center. The Nuggets lead the all-time series with an 83-77 record against Los Angeles… Eric Bledsoe dished out a career-high 13 assists against the Nuggets on November 5, 2010 in Denver. It was his first career double-double. He also set a career high in steals with seven against Denver on March 5, 2011.

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