After starting their first extended road trip of the season on a high note, the Clippers will look to salvage a split of their four games away from Los Angeles Saturday night against the Atlanta Hawks.
The Clippers (8-4) have lost two in a row after starting the road trip with a 92-87 victory at San Antonio on Monday night. It is the second time the team has lost consecutive games this season, so the team has experience on how to avoid their first three-game losing streak of the season.
“We just buckled down and played better defense and made sure the ball was moving and got open shots,” said Clippers power forward Blake Griffin about putting an end to their previous two-game skid. “That’s what we have to do [Saturday] to bounce back from these two losses.”
They were able to curtail the losing streak last time with a blowout victory against the Spurs on Nov. 7 and they will be looking to stop the bleeding again tonight with a solid effort against the surging Hawks (7-4), who have won their last four games.
This will be the final meeting of the season between the two teams. The Clippers topped the Hawks 89-76 in their previous meeting on Veterans Day at Staples Center. Six players scored in double figures for the Clippers, led by Griffin’s 16 on 7-for-11 shooting. The team will need a similar effort to finish their road trip on a high note.
"[We have to] come out and play hard and try to play the right way and take care of the ball," Clippers point guard Chris Paul said.
LAST TIME OUT
Nets 86, Clippers 76: The Clippers were held to their lowest point total of the season thanks to shooting 40.3% from the field, including a 4-for-17 night from beyond the arc. They also turned the ball over 20 times, the most since they coughed it up 25 times against Cleveland on Nov. 5.
“We turned it over too much,” Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said. “We were chasing them too much. It was a tight game and all of a sudden we turned it over, they made a few baskets, we could never get our legs under us. It’s just one of those nights where the tempo of the game and the turnovers really set us back.”
After scoring just nine points on a 2-for-14 shooting performance against Oklahoma City, Clippers point guard Chris Paul bounced back against Brooklyn. He scored 14 points on 5-for-11 shooting to go along with nine assists and five rebounds, but it was not enough as he fouled out for the first time this season.
Hawks 101, Bobcats 91: The Hawks shot 53.8% from the field, led by Al Horford who scored 26 points on 13-for-17 shooting in 39 minutes. Four of the Hawks five starters scored in double figures and the team hit 11-of-22 shots from beyond the arc, led by Kyle Korver’s 4-for-6 night en route to 16 points.
The Bobcats were able to cut a 10-point deficit to six with less than two minutes remaining. Rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s driving layup made the score 97-91, but a Horford dunk and a jumper from Josh Smith put the game away.
Blake Griffin vs. Josh Smith. The sequel to their Veterans Day match up should provide more excitement as Griffin scored 16 points in just 30 minutes of action while Smith’s promising game was derailed due to foul trouble, finishing that game with 13 points on 6-of-13 shooting. Griffin has averaged 17.6 points per game on the current road trip and has shot 50% or better in two of the three games.
As for Smith, his scoring has fluctuated during the team’s four-game winning streak. He scored just six points in the Hawks’ win over the Orlando Magic on November 19 but followed that up with 25 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks to edge the Wizards two nights later.
TWO THINGS TO WATCH
Turnovers. The Clippers defense has been one of the best this season at forcing turnovers and that has not changed in their time away from the Staples Center. During their first three games of the road trip, they have forced an average of 15.6 turnovers. They also forced the Hawks to cough up the basketball 22 times in their previous meeting this season. The Clippers are also scoring better than 20 points per game off opponent’s turnovers.
Ball Movement. In their loss against the Nets, the Clippers managed just 15 assists, nine of those coming from Paul. Only four other players recorded an assist for the Clippers, with Griffin the only one of them to dish out multiple helpers, finishing the night with three (all in the first quarter).
Meanwhile, the Hawks had 29 assists on 42 field goals in their win at Charlotte. Eight players recorded at least one assist, led by point guard Jeff Teague’s 12 dimes while Smith added eight helpers.
After tonight’s game, the Clippers will play six of their next seven games at Staples Center… Despite scoring only 76 points on Friday, the Clippers are still one of the highest scoring teams in the NBA, ranking third with 102.4 points per game. The 76 points was the fewest the Clippers scored in a game since Feb. 2012 in a 74-71 win at Portland…The Clippers lead the NBA in steals per game, averaging 10.3 thefts per contest... Horford leads the Hawks in scoring and rebounding, averaging 16.5 points and 9.3 boards a game.