PREGAME REPORT | DECEMBER 30, 2012
Tip-off: 6:30 PM | STAPLES Center | Los Angeles, CA | Game Notes »
Eric Patten Follow @EricPatten
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LOS ANGELES - This is becoming unprecedented.
The Clippers (24-6), riding a 16-game winning streak, have a chance Sunday to compile the first undefeated month in the NBA since 2008 and third 16-0 month ever.
To do so, they will have to get through the Utah Jazz (15-16) for the third time in December and second time in three days. It likely will not come easy, the Jazz are two desperation 3-pointers by former Clipper Randy Foye away from consecutive wins over the Clippers.
But those games, including Friday’s 116-114 victory for L.A., came in Salt Lake City. On Sunday, the teams meet at Staples Center, where the Clippers own a nine-game winning streak and +13.1 point differential.
“We’ve got to get back, play these guys again on Sunday and we’ll re-evaluate,” Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said after the team’s win at EnergySolutions Arena. “Like I always talk about, we’ve got to prepare the right way. The guys are sticking together. It’s always a test for us.
“Utah’s a scrappy team and we’ve got to do some better things at home on Sunday.”
Sunday is the beginning of a stretch where the Clippers play five games in seven days, including a back-to-back on the road January 1-2. Asked about how the team will handle one of its most grueling weeks of the season, forward Lamar Odom said they cannot get ahead of themselves.
“We just have to take it game by game,” Odom said. “What are you going to do besides that? You can’t look ahead.”
LAST TIME OUT
Clippers 116, Jazz 114: The Jazz snared a 19-point advantage four minutes into the third quarter, but the Clippers “buckled down,” according to center DeAndre Jordan, and came away with a thrilling road win. Chris Paul, who had a season-high 29 points in the game, made a pair of free throws with 3.4 seconds to go and Foye missed a 3-pointer from straightaway as he attempted to jump into Matt Barnes to draw foul.
“We just stayed with it,” Paul said. “We walked out, I think in the third quarter, and I looked up at the clock and saw we were down 16. I was thinking to myself that we can come back, but we are going to have to work real hard. It started on the defensive end.”
The defense picked up midway through the third as the Clippers pieced together a 17-3 run to pull to 79-76 with 1:52 remaining in the quarter. The Clippers drew even for the first time since early in the second quarter when Caron Butler nailed a 3-pointer from the left wing and was fouled by Gordon Hayward. Despite several pushes from the Jazz to extend their lead back to three or five points, the Clippers had an answer, including two 3-point plays by Jordan and another by Blake Griffin, who finished with 22 points and 13 rebounds.
DeAndre Jordan vs. Al Jefferson. It is not a coincidence the two games in the last month that Jordan has played more than 30 minutes have come against the Jazz. Utah’s well-rounded center Al Jefferson used to give Jordan trouble, but in their last two meetings Jordan has been called upon to help slow Jefferson down. In their Dec. 3 matchup, Jordan swatted away a runner by Jefferson to help preserve the Clippers’ third victory of their franchise-record winning streak and on Friday, Jordan played the final 6:26 defending Jefferson on nearly every possession and helping hold him to 1-for-4 shooting in the period.
Paul said Jordan’s effort defensively was a big reason the Clippers won and something that will be vital for the Clippers moving forward. “It’s very important because we’re going to need [Jordan] all season long. I’ve said earlier he might be our most valuable player. Different games his number’s going to be called and as you [saw Friday] he’s ready.”
TWO THINGS TO WATCH
History. The Clippers could become just the third team to go 16-0 in a calendar month, joining the 1995-96 Spurs and 1971-72 Lakers. They also could become just the 17th team all-time to win 17 games in a row and just the ninth since 1982.
Rebounding. The teams combined for more free throw attempts (81) than rebounds (71) on Friday, but the Clippers cannot count on that again. Everyone from Del Negro to Barnes to Griffin have suggested that among the things the team must improve rebounding, particularly on the defensive side of the floor, is one of them. They are 14-2 when they collect more defensive rebounds than their opponent, but the Jazz are fifth in the NBA in offensive rebounds per game (13.1) and boast one of the best big man rotations in the West with Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors. In their two meetings this season the Jazz have only won the rebounding edge by a combined six. Neutralizing Utah’s advantage on the glass will go a long way in determining if the Clippers can extend their win streak to 17.
Sunday is the fifth time in seven years the Clippers have played the same team twice without facing another opponent in between, including consecutive losses in Nov. 2008 to the Jazz… Griffin has seven double-doubles against the Jazz since 2010-11, more than any other player against them… Hayward is second in the league in trips to the foul line among reserves (4.7 per game). Jamal Crawford, who leads the league in bench scoring, is sixth (3.9)… Mo Williams, who has missed the last three games for Utah with a severely sprained thumb, is not expected to play… Odom sustained a “twisted” right ankle in Friday’s game, but according to Del Negro he “will be ready.”
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