PREGAME REPORT | FEBRUARY 14, 2013

 



Tipoff: 7:30 p.m. PST | STAPLES Center | Los Angeles, CA | Game Notes »

                       

RAFAEL GUERRERO

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It may be Valentine’s Day, but here will likely be little affection shown amongst the crowd at Staples Center Thursday night when the Clippers and the Lakers take the floor for the third time this season, the second with the Lakers colors adorning the court.

With a victory Thursday, the Clippers (38-17) will clinch a four-game season-series against the Lakers (25-28) for the first time in team history. The Clippers won a five-game season series from the Lakers in the 1992-93 season and a four-game series during the 1974-75 season when the franchise was located in Buffalo.

“It’s probably a big game for the city,” Clippers shooting guard Chauncey Billups said. “For me, it’s a big game because it’s another game we need to win.”

The teams have also split their last 10 meetings, with the Clippers snapping the Lakers nine-game winning streak on the purple-and-gold’s home court with a decisive, 105-95, win Nov. 2.

“It should be fun,” Clippers shooting guard Jamal Crawford said. “It’s always fun playing against them. They’re playing better for sure. They’re on track and it will be a fun game for the fans.”

The Clippers have won three straight games and are finally healthy, something that cannot be said about the Lakers as Dwight Howard is nursing a torn right labrum while power forward Pau Gasol will be out approximately eight weeks with a torn plantar fascia in his right foot.

“They are obviously a different team without Pau,” Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said. “But they obviously cause problems with Kobe’s isolations. They have Dwight and [Steve] Nash so they obviously have a lot of talent over there. We’re back-to-back and it’s their home game so our guys will be ready to compete. We know what we have to do to put ourselves in position and I expect a good effort from us.”

After getting off to their worst start in franchise history, the Lakers are looking like a team that has finally figured some things out, winning eight of their last 11 games including going 4-3 on their own “Grammy” road trip.

“With all the great players that they have, it’s definitely surprising [that they’ve struggled],” Billups said. “There’s still a lot of season left. No matter how many games they’re back from the playoff hunt, all of those things can be changed around in a week.”

LAST TIME OUT

Clippers 106, Rockets 96. The Clippers returned home with an exclamation point, erupting for 46 points in the first quarter and the Rockets could never recover.

Five players scored in double figures, led by Blake Griffin who recorded his 22nd double-double of the season with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Billups and Caron Butler, who both missed Monday’s game at Philadelphia with sore lower backs, each dropped 19 points and Crawford scored 13 points in 28 minutes off the bench.

“We were able to get stops, get easy baskets, get out in transition and that’s where we’re at our best,” Crawford said.

Butler scored 17 of his 19 in that first quarter on 7-for-9 shooting and the Clippers went 17-for-22 (77.3%) from the field as a team.

Lakers 91, Suns 85. Howard scored 19 points and grabbed 18 boards to lead the Lakers to a victory. The Lakers dominated every quarter except the third, where their offense struggled mightily and managed just nine points, their lowest total for a quarter this season.

The Suns capitalized on those struggles and took a six-point lead in the fourth quarter. That’s when the Lakers offense finally woke up, going on an 8-0 run capped off by a tough layup over two Suns defenders to give the Lakers a 75-73 lead with 8:40 left.

Antawn Jamison then found himself in the right place at the right time, catching an air-ball attempt by Bryant a few minutes later and converted a layup to essentially put the game away. Jamison finished with a double-double of his own with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Bryant scored a season-low four points on 1-of-9 shooting.

NOTEWORTHY MATCHUP

Chauncey Billups vs. Kobe Bryant. Despite coming off the lowest point total of his career when he scored just four points in 35 minutes against Phoenix, Bryant still poses a major threat to the Clippers. He scored 40 points in their first match up this season and followed that up with a 38-point outburst in the Clippers’ 107-102 victory on Jan. 4.

Bryant is also a notorious roamer on defense and that is where Billups’ outside shooting will become vitally important to keep Bryant from cheating off of him on the defensive end. Billups had struggled with his shot since returning from peroneal tendinitis, hitting just 30% of his first 10 3-point shots.

But he flourished Wednesday night against Houston, hitting 6-of-9 shots including 4-or-7 from beyond the arc. He scored seven points in the Clippers 46-point first quarter on two 3-pointers and a technical free throw.

TWO THINGS TO WATCH

The Transition Game. The Lakers struggles defending the fast break this season have been well documented. They rank last in the NBA allowing opponents to score 16.1 points per game in transition.

The Clippers have taken particular advantage of that in their two meetings with the Lakers this season, outscoring them 35-25 combined in that category.

Vacation Time. The game will be the last for both teams before the All-Star break and it will be interesting to see how both teams approach the final outing before an extended break for most of the players.

“It’s going to be really exciting game,” Paul said. “It’s their home game and both teams have been playing well as of late. It’s a division game and the last one before the All-Star break and I’m sure neither team will be looking forward to the break. I’m sure both teams will be focused on [tonight].”

NOTES. The Clippers and Lakers will boast four of the five starters for the Western Conference in the All-Star game for the second consecutive year, with Howard filling Andrew Bynum’s spot in the middle from a year ago to go along with Paul, Griffin and Bryant… The Clippers rank first in the league in points off turnovers and the Lakers average 15.3 turnovers a game, which puts them 25th in the NBA.

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