BROOKLYN – Barclays Center, with its Broadway stage-esqe house lighting and herringbone patterned hardwood, awaits the Clippers’ first-ever game in Brooklyn.
It’s the third game of a four-game road stretch for the Clippers (8-3). And while it’s not necessarily the most challenging of the four matchups, the setting of New York, an emerging Nets team that is off to a 6-4 start and has captivated national audiences on NBA TV’s insider series “The Association,” and the sparkling new digs, make it far and away the most glamorous matchup of the trip.
“[The arena] is very, very nice,” Chris Paul told the media after Friday morning’s shoot-around. “I think they did a great job and Brooklyn [is] a prime location. I talk to [Nets co-owner] Jay-Z pretty often, so I know he’s happy with it and I can definitely see all of his little touches around here, too.”
Clippers small forward Caron Butler, who missed the team’s previous game against Oklahoma City with a strained right shoulder, participated in shoot-around, but remains a game-time decision for Friday.
LAST TIME OUT
Thunder 117, Clippers 111 (OT): The Clippers had an opportunity on the final possession of regulation to walk away from Oklahoma City their seventh consecutive win, but Paul’s turnaround over Russell Westbrook rolled off the front of the rim and the Thunder won it as Westbrook and Kevin Durant combined for all of OKC’s 15 points in overtime. Durant finished with a game-high 35 points, including going 19-of-21 from the foul line. Matt Barnes, who played in place of Butler, had 19 points, nine rebounds and four steals and scored the last five points of regulation for the Clippers, including a layup off a feed from Paul with 35.8 seconds to go.
Blake Griffin added a team-high 23 points and made five of his six fourth-quarter free throws. After the game he said, “Hopefully, you learn from every loss and take the mistakes and work on them and eliminate them. But I thought our effort down the stretch was great. It wasn’t for a lack of effort. We were just a little unfortunate in some areas tonight.”
Warriors 102, Nets 93:Despite grabbing a lead as large as 13 points early in the second quarter, the Nets failed to put away the host Warriors. Behind 25 points from Stephen Curry and 23 from second-year guard Klay Thompson Golden State went on a 16-5 run to close the third to send Brooklyn home with its second straight loss. Brook Lopez scored a team-high 22 points from the Nets, but superstar Deron Williams was held to nine points on 4-of-12 shooting with eight assists.
Chris Paul vs. Deron Williams. The point guard duo is inextricably connected. They were drafted within a pick of each other in 2005 (Williams No. 3, Paul No. 4), won two Olympic gold medals as teammates with U.S.A. Basketball, are perennial All-Stars and franchise cornerstones in two of the country’s most frenzied media markets, and remain fast friends.
“We always will be [connected],” Paul said. “And we’re really close and we talked on the way to [shoot-around] this morning. Our wives talk, our kids and stuff like that.”
In 17 career meetings, Williams has defeated his point guard counterpart 13 of 17 times, but their numbers are comparable.
On Friday they will both enter the game coming off arguably two of the worst performances of their decorated careers. Paul scored nine points on 2-of-14 shooting and had nine assists in a loss at Oklahoma City and Williams had nine points (4-for-12) and eight assists in a loss to Warriors. Since 2010-11, they have combined for only 11 such performances.
“The good thing about this league is you have another game to come back and win,” Paul said referring to Wednesday’s loss. “You know, I wouldn’t have cared as much [about my performance] had we won, but we lost and that’s the part that’s not good.”
TWO THINGS TO WATCH
Rebounding. Del Negro has said he is happier with how the Clippers have attacked the boards lately, but it will be a challenge against the Nets. Although Brooklyn is No. 20 in the league in rebounds, one spot ahead of the Clippers, they have played seven games without Gerald Wallace (ankle). With Wallace, who has a rebounding rate of 12.8 over the last three seasons, in frontcourt alongside power forward Kris Humphries, who is NBA’s 14th leading rebounder (9.4 per game), and Williams the Nets have three of the better rebounders at their positions in the league.
Fouling. One of Del Negro’s biggest points of emphasis as the Clippers embarked on the road trip was reducing the number of fouls the team is committing. He said while he’s happy they’re playing aggressive defense, evidenced by being the only team in the league averaging better than 10 steals per game, there is a fine line between being too aggressive. Against the Thunder fouls were once again a problem. Durant shot 21 of Oklahoma City’s 39 free throws, Matt Barnes fouled out in overtime and Blake Griffin spent two lengthy stretches on the bench in foul trouble.
The Clippers’ 8-3 start is the second best 11-game start in franchise history. They started 9-2 in 2005-06… Griffin scored 51 points with 31 rebounds in two games against the Nets last year… Nets forward Reggie Evans will play his first game against his former team after becoming a fan-favorite in L.A. last season… Brooklyn is seeking their fifth home win in six games at Barclays Center… The Clippers are second in the NBA in bench scoring at 42.0 per game, while the Nets average 31.8 from their reserves… Jamal Crawford is 1 of 4 players in NBA history since 1985-86 to score 20 points or more off the bench in 7 of his team’s first 11 games and is the first player since Milwaukee’s Ricky Pierce in the 1990-91 season to accomplish the feat.