VERSUS
 
DECEMBER 9, 2012
Tip-off: 12:30 PM
STAPLES Center
Los Angeles, CA
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By Rafael Guerrero 

The Clippers will conclude their stretch of six home games in seven outings when they host the Toronto Raptors Sunday afternoon at Staples Center.

It will be the Clippers’ third afternoon game of the season and second in as many days, something that takes point guard Chris Paul back to his younger days.

“It doesn’t bother me,” Paul said of the 12:30 p.m. starts. “I like it. It’s almost like playing AAU back in the day. You come in, play, and get to spend a little time with your family. We’ll just come in early for the game, look at film and try to feed off of our crowd.”

The Clippers (13-6) will be looking to avoid a letdown after winning their fifth game in a row after a slow start against the 7-14 Phoenix Suns on Saturday. Head Coach Vinny Del Negro is hoping his team, particularly the starters, can make the necessary adjustments.

“Our starters get into ‘energy on offense and not as much energy on defense’ and that is what beats you in this league,” Del Negro said. “We’ve got to change that mentality as soon as possible, because this game easily could have gone a different way.”

After the game, the Clippers will head out on their second extended road trip of the season with games at Chicago, Charlotte, Milwaukee and Detroit. Of those teams, Chicago is the only team with a winning record with the rest at .500 or worse. It will be a prime opportunity for the Clippers to put the struggles from their last four-game trip, where they went 1-3, behind them.

Last Time Out:

Clippers 117, Suns 99: The Clippers outscored the Suns 32-16 in the fourth quarter thanks to a tremendous effort from the second unit. The starters never touched the floor in the final period as Jamal Crawford, Eric Bledsoe, Matt Barnes and Ronny Turiaf each played the entire 12 minutes.

“It’s very important to be conscious of what you can do and help the team and not overstep any boundaries to get in anybody’s way,” Lamar Odom said after the game. “We try to keep the same energy so we complement each other well.”

Blake Griffin led the Clippers with 24 points on 10-of-17 shooting to go along with eight rebounds. Paul recorded his eighth double-double of the season with 16 points and 11 assists and Crawford dropped 21 while coming off the bench.

Jazz 131, Raptors 91: After winning the first quarter 29-25, the Raptors defense fell apart as they gave up at least 32 points in each of the next three quarters. They allowed the Jazz to shoot 56.5% from beyond the arc and 49.5% from the field. Eight players also scored in double figures for the Jazz en route to the blowout.

Andrea Bargnani led the Raptors with 20 points on 8-of-15 shooting while also grabbing eight rebounds. DeMar DeRozan pitched in with 17 but hit just five of his 15 shot attempts and Kyle Lowry struggled with just 10 points on 30% shooting and dished out four assists.

Noteworthy Matchup:

DeAndre Jordan vs. Andrea Bargnani. Jordan’s improvement on both ends of the floor has been well-documented. His post game is much improved and he has been one of the better protectors of the rim, averaging 1.9 blocks per game.

Bargnani is the Raptors’ third leading scorer, averaging 17 points per game. He has struggled early in the season with his long-range shooting, hitting just 32.2% of his attempts from 3-point land but still remains a threat with his range beyond 15 feet, which could draw Jordan away from the basket on defense.

Two Things To Watch:

The Backcourt. Paul and Crawford are one of the league’s best guard combinations, with Paul being arguably the most cerebral point guard in the game and Crawford one of the more explosive scoring wings.

The Raptors boast a promising young duo of Lowry and former USC standout DeRozan. The latter leads the Raptors in scoring with 18.1 points a game while Lowry is right behind at 17.7 per game.

Lawler’s Law. The Clippers are one of the highest scoring teams in the league, averaging 101.5 points per game. They have scored 105 points or more in their last four games, all victories. In contrast, the Raptors have had a rough time keeping opponents under the century mark. They have allowed 100 points in 12 of their 20 games this season, all of them losses.

On another note, Lawler’s Law is undefeated this season with the first team to reach 100 points winning in all 15 occurrences.

Notes: The Clippers lead the all-time series against the Raptors 19-13, but are only 8-8 against Toronto in Los Angeles… The Clippers have forced their opponents to commit at least 20 turnovers in their last two games. They have scored a combined 56 points off those turnovers… The Clippers lead the NBA averaging 11.0 steals per game.