PREGAME REPORT | APRIL 12, 2013
Tipoff: 5:00 p.m. PT | New Orleans Arena | New Orleans, LA | Game Notes »
Eric Patten Follow @EricPatten
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NEW ORLEANS – After practice Thursday Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said the team is focused on winning as many games as possible and letting the rest “sort itself out.”
When things get sorted out five days from now, the Clippers (52-26), who are riding a three-game winning streak, would be remiss to not have Friday’s game in the left-hand column. For the second time in two weeks, they enter New Orleans Arena to face the Hornets (27-52) with playoff positioning on the line.
They enter Friday’s slate trailing Memphis by one game for home court advantage in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs. And while the Grizzlies play the Rockets in Houston at the same time, the Clippers insist they will not be scoreboard watching.
“We have to worry about us and what we do,” Del Negro said before the team left Los Angeles for a road back-to-back in New Orleans and Memphis.
It starts with the undermanned Hornets, who are without rookie Anthony Davis (MCL sprain and bone bruise in his knee) for the remainder of the season. Point guard Greivis Vasquez (ankle) is also expected to be out, according to NOLA.com, leaving the Hornets with just 11 available players.
Chauncey Billups (groin), the lone injured member of the Clippers, practiced again Thursday but remains a game-time decision.
“I’m not sure about [New Orleans],” Del Negro said of Billups’ possible return. “But maybe Memphis, I don’t know yet. And if he doesn’t do that, for sure Portland, probably.”
The Clippers play the Trail Blazers at Staples Center on Tuesday and close the regular season on the road in Sacramento.
LAST TIME OUT
Clippers 111, Timberwolves 95: A 19-6 run to close the third quarter buried the visiting Timberwolves Wednesday, as the Clippers won for a franchise-record 31st time at home this season. Chris Paul became just the fourth player since 1987 to accumulate 19 points, 11 assists, seven rebounds and four steals while playing 31 minutes or fewer. Blake Griffin added 19 points, eight rebounds and seven assists and the Clippers got double-digit scoring from seven players, including all five starters.
Kings 121, Hornets 110: Unheralded rookie Brian Roberts scored 20 points and former Clipper Eric Gordon added a team-high 23 for New Orleans, but the Hornets could not escape Sacramento with a win. The Hornets made a go of it, though. After Vasquez tweaked his ankle, Roberts led a comeback attempt, helping New Orleans score 37 points in the fourth quarter. But a 55.3% shooting night from the Kings proved too much. Marcus Thornton, John Salmons and Jason Thompson each topped 20 points with Salmons leading the way with 22.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
With the Hornets severely undermanned, Friday’s game could be another stalwart defensive effort from the Clippers. They lead the league with a 27-0 record when holding teams to 42.0% shooting or worse and without Davis and Vasquez the second lowest scoring team in the West (94.2 points per game) could have its share of problems. The young duo makes up 29% of the Hornets’ scoring, and while Robin Lopez has averaged 17.5 points in the last two meetings against the Clippers, Davis’ absence allows the defense to concentrate more on him.
Del Negro talked about the Clippers’ defensive effort in the last three games.
“Our defense obviously the last few games has been better from a field goal percentage defensive standpoint,” he said. “That’s kind of what we’ve put our hat on a lot throughout the season. We haven’t been as consistent lately but the last few games have been much better. It’s about energy and guys locking in and we’ve been better the last few and that’s been a big difference for us.”
The Clippers have played New Orleans three previous times. In the one game Davis did not play New Orleans made 15 3-pointers and shocked the Clippers at Staples Center in November. Gordon also missed that game with a knee injury, so it’s not unprecedented for a short-handed New Orleans team to play hard even in adverse situations.
Willie Green has made 20 of his 29 3-pointers (69.0%) since March 10. He is up to No. 9 in the league overall in 3-point shooting… The Clippers have never won two in a row in New Orleans in the same season… Paul is 1-1 against his former team on the road… New Orleans is 4-11 when Davis does not play this season… A victory for the Clippers would bring them into a tie for the fourth best road record in the league…