DETROIT – When the Clippers take on the Detroit Pistons Monday night at the Palace of Auburn Hills, they have a chance to sweep a four-game road trip for the first time in franchise history.
They are riding a nine-game winning streak, the best since 1974-75 when the Clippers (17-6) were known as the Buffalo Braves, but small forward Caron Butler says they have to play as though there is no streak on the line.
“[We have to] just continue to play our style of basketball,” Butler said. “We know [the Pistons] are going to come out hungry and energetic and desperate for a win. But we’re desperate for a win, too.”
The Pistons (7-19) have lost four in a row and six of their last seven, but the Clippers have seen what giving teams under .500 life can do, losing to Cleveland and New Orleans at home in November. They have avoided similar letdowns during their latest stretch, including a 100-94 win at Charlotte on the second night of a back-to-back.
For reserve point guard Eric Bledsoe, it’s simple. “We’re just trying to finish off this road trip on a good note.”
Bledsoe took a hard fall in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s win over the Bucks, but said Monday that despite feeling “pretty banged up” he expects to play against the Pistons. “I think [Clippers trainer] Jasen [Powell] is doing a great job trying to get me back right for the game,” Bledsoe added. “I’m most definitely going to play tonight.”
LAST TIME OUT
Clippers 111, Bucks 85: The game was never really in doubt as the Clippers put together one of their most consistent road wins in recent memory at BMO Harris Bradley Center. The starters helped the Clippers jump out to a 28-15 lead in the first quarter behind DeAndre Jordan’s eight points. But it was, in Head Coach Vinny Del Negro’s words, “a total team effort.”
“I thought our starters got off to a very good start for us and then our bench was able to come in and take control,” Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said. “We weathered the game well in the third quarter. I thought we had good energy overall. We were able to control our turnovers and we did a good job on the glass. We were pretty sharp in a lot of areas.”
Jordan, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin all put up double-doubles and reserve forward Matt Barnes scored a season-high 21 points on 8-of-10 shooting. It was Barnes’ third consecutive game with at least 14 points. He’s shooting 66.7% in those games.
Pacers 88, Pistons 77: David West lifted the visiting Pacers past Detroit with a game-high 23 points as the Pacers put together an 11-0 run in the fourth quarter to break open a two-point game. The Pistons shot just 38.6% and scored fewer than 80 points for the third time since Nov. 30. Greg Monroe led Detroit with 18 points and eight rebounds and guard Rodney Stuckey had 15 points off the bench.
DeAndre Jordan vs. Greg Monroe. They are both dynamic young post players for their respective teams, secure a majority of their points in the paint and shoot the ball left handed, which Jordan believes is an inherent advantage.
“Greg’s skilled. He can take you off the dribble. He’s left handed and not a lot of people are, so he already has what I feel is an advantage,” said Jordan, who along with Lamar Odom is one of two lefties on the Clippers.
In a way, Monroe’s numbers are at an all-star level, with averages 15.2 points, 9.1 rebounds and 3.3 assists. But Jordan seemingly matches up well with him. The Clippers center has double digit rebounds in three of his last four games, despite playing fewer than 28 minutes in all of them, and is remaining out of foul trouble. Avoiding sending Monroe to the line will be of import, he leads the Pistons with 4.8 free throw attempts per game.
“He’s a big dude, long, athletic,” Jordan said. “So, we’ve got to force his catches out and try to be as active as possible with him.” Monroe attempts 78.9% of his shots in the paint and shoots worse than 35% on jumpers outside of 9 feet.
TWO THINGS TO WATCH
Defensive Prowess. The Pistons are holding opponents to 44.1% shooting, good for 12th in the league, while the Clippers held opponents to a staggering 91.1 points per game over their nine-game winning streak. For the Clippers, it may come down to topping 100 points. In the last month they are 9-1 when scoring above the century mark.
The Free Throw Line. The Clippers made 18 of their 24 free throws against the Bucks, including eight players taking at least one and Griffin putting in 4-of-5. On the year, L.A. is among the top 10 in attempts (24.1 per game) and makes (17.8). Likewise, Detroit is the league’s seventh best at getting to the line, averaging 25.0 free throw attempts per game (seventh in the NBA), and making 73.2%. That starts with Monroe and Stuckey, who not only gets there (3.9 attempts per game), but also makes them (85.0%).
The Clippers and Pistons have only played once Dec. 17, 2010, an 87-83 win by the Clippers last season… Pistons forward Corey Maggette played eight seasons with the Clippers and is among the franchise leaders in a number of statistical categories… Five members of the Clippers roster or coaching staff have ties to Michigan including Chauncey Billups and Grant Hill, who played substantial portions of their career with the Pistons, Detroit natives Willie Green and coach Howard Eisley, and Jamal Crawford, who played one season at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor… Matt Barnes has scored 14 or more points off the bench in three consecutive games. It is the first time in his career he has done so.