PREGAME REPORT | MARCH 29, 2013
Tipoff: 5:30 p.m. PST | AT&T Center | San Antonio, TX | Game Notes »
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SAN ANTONIO – In a season marked with historical plateaus for the Clippers, they have an opportunity Friday night to accomplish two things they have never done.
First, the 49-23 Clippers are seeking the only 50-win season in franchise history. To get there Friday, they would have need a win over the West’s top-seeded San Antonio Spurs, a long-time nemesis for L.A. and an organization that has set the 50-win standard in the NBA over the past decade and a half.
A win over the Spurs (54-17) would also extend the Clippers’ regular-season winning streak in the Alamo City to three games, something else they have never accomplished. The Clippers enter Friday’s game with a half-game lead over the Denver Nuggets (49-24) for third place in the West and a game and a half advantage over the Memphis Grizzlies (48-24).
“We definitely need to get the win because we’re still fighting for that third seed, and trying to position ourselves, and get ready for the playoffs,” Chris Paul said at Friday morning’s shoot-around. “Every game is a big game from here on out.”
The Spurs have won six in a row at home and only lost at AT&T Center four times, including a 92-87 defeat to the Clippers on Nov. 19. The Clippers are 2-1 this season against San Antonio and are seeking to win the season series for the first time since 1996-97, the year before they selected Tim Duncan No. 1 overall.
At shoot-around, Paul talked about how the Clippers pace was a factor in their first two wins against the Spurs this season. “I think running. We forced a lot of turnovers in those games and we got out in transition. We were able to get to the free throw line and didn’t let them score as many easy baskets.”
LAST TIME OUT
Clippers 105, Hornets 91: A 26-14 fourth quarter, powered by the Clippers’ bench, helped L.A. turn Wednesday’s second game of their road trip into a relatively easy victory. It did not come without a few scares, however. New Orleans led by as many as seven points in the first half and even after the Clippers looked to be pulling away in the third, 21 points in the quarter from Anthony Davis and Eric Gordon brought them to within two heading into the fourth.
The Clippers’ reserves took it from there. Jamal Crawford, Eric Bledsoe and Matt Barnes contributed 10 points on the opening four possessions of the fourth quarter and by the time Paul returned with less than six minutes remaining, the Clippers were firmly in control.
“We had some good execution,” Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said. “We spread them out a little bit. They play very hard. They’ve been playing very well, so this is a good win for us.”
The Clippers made 13 of their 29 3-point attempts. Paul finished with 16 points, nine assists, six rebounds and four steals, Crawford had 13 points off the bench and Griffin scored a team-best 19. Gordon, who played against the Clippers for just the second time since being traded in December 2011, had a game-high 24.
Spurs 100, Nuggets 99: San Antonio held on to win Wednesday at AT&T Center and subsequently aided the Clippers in the process. Denver’s Andre Miller missed a jumper at the buzzer and the Spurs edged the Nuggets despite being outscored, 59-18, in bench points. Duncan had 23 points, 14 rebounds and five blocks and Tony Parker added 11 assists. Parker sustained a sprained middle finger on his right hand during the game, but returned in the fourth quarter. JaVale McGee led the Nuggets with 21 points and 11 boards.
Willie Green vs. Danny Green. In a game where both teams are anchored by superstar point guards and power forwards, and possess two of the most dynamic benches in the league, the role players may make the biggest difference. That’s where both Greens come in.
The Clippers have a record of 35-17 when Willie Green starts and 29-11 when Paul joins him the backcourt (Paul missed 12 games with a bruised right kneecap). In three of the last four games, Willie Green has been pivotal. He matched a season-high with 15 points in a win over the Nets Saturday and has made 10 of his last 16 3-point shots.
“He’s started most of the season,” Del Negro said. “Willie’s kind of weathered the storm in a lot of ways there. He’s always prepared. He gives you what he can.”
The Spurs may be at their best when Danny Green is thriving. They are 14-0 at home when he makes at least three 3-pointers and can utilize his versatility as a defender in a variety of ways. Expect to see plenty of Danny Green on Paul, for example.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Protect the Rock. Obviously, the Clippers are always focused on avoiding turnovers, but against the Spurs keeping possession of the ball can be particularly important. They thrive in transition with Parker and Manu Ginobili and are one of the league’s elite 3-point shooting teams. Much of that is exacerbated by opponents turning the ball over.
“It’s very important for us every night, not just against the Spurs,” Paul said of avoiding turnovers. “When we turn the ball over it takes possessions away from us. Obviously, they’re a really good team at home. They feed off their crowd. They hit big shots. If we give them more opportunities to score I’m sure they will.”
In San Antonio’s 54 wins they average 19.0 points off turnovers per game. However, in their 17 losses that number drops down to 12.9.
The Clippers agreed to terms with reserve guard Maalik Wayns on a rest-of-season contract on Friday morning… The magic number for the team to clinch their first-ever division title is down to two… Chauncey Billups, who re-aggravated his right groin injury in Wednesday’s win, is listed as day-to-day. He is not expected to play.