PREGAME REPORT | APRIL 3, 2013
Tipoff: 7:30 p.m. PST | STAPLES Center | Los Angeles, CA | Game Notes »
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LOS ANGELES – Energy has been a key word for the Clippers all season.
At their best the team would consistently say it was a relentless energy and aggressiveness that set the tone. At their worst, including a three-game losing streak that began five days ago, they have suggested that a lack of that same spirit has been the cause.
On Wednesday night that will be tested against the Phoenix Suns (23-51), a team that while owning the Western Conference’s worst record has continued to compete.
“I think the rest of these games we have to play hard,” Matt Barnes said at Wednesday’s shoot-around. “We think we can just show up and beat people and we’ve been playing bad basketball lately. Whatever approach we need to take for each individual to do that, we’re going to be ready.”
Phoenix comes in losers of six straight and five in a row on the road, including four losses by double digits. While the Clippers (49-26) are second in the NBA with 35 double-digit wins, they have been blown out for the better part of a game and half by Houston and Indiana before a wild final period led by the bench helped them nearly overcome a 24-point third-quarter deficit.
“If we play like that (in the fourth quarter against Indiana) the whole game I think we’ll be fine,” Eric Bledsoe said.
The Clippers can clinch their first-ever Pacific Division title with a win and a loss by the Golden State Warriors, who play New Orleans in Oakland tonight.
LAST TIME OUT
Pacers 109, Clippers 106: In their first game back after a disappointing four-game road trip, the Clippers let Indiana jump out to a 10-0 lead in the first three minutes Monday and had to climb their way back. After falling behind by 24 points in the third quarter, though, the Clippers finally did.
Led by Jamal Crawford, who scored 15 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter, the Clippers’ bench brought the Clippers back to within a point after Barnes flipped in a layup off a missed 3-pointer by Chris Paul with 2.2 seconds left. Paul George made a pair of free throws on the other end and Lamar Odom missed a potentially game-tying 3-pointer from straightaway at the buzzer.
Odom finished with nine points, 10 rebounds, three steals and two assists. Ryan Hollins added 11 point and six rebounds in a season-high 31:25.
“We just didn’t come out with the sense of urgency,” Willie Green said. “Indiana is playing playoff-type basketball. The teams that we’re facing coming down the stretch, we need to come out with a better sense of urgency. We need to play with more energy and execute.”
Pacers 112, Suns 104: Two days before the Pacers upended the Clippers in L.A. they paraded to an eight-point win in the Valley of the Sun. They went 34-of-46 from the foul line and held off Phoenix despite seven players scoring in double-figures for the Suns. Phoenix shot 48.8% from the floor and got 21 points and nine assists from Goran Dragic, but couldn’t keep the Pacers off the line. Four players committed at least four fouls, and Indiana made five of their six free throws in the last 2:46 to extend a one-point lead to six.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Speed kills. Bledsoe, who was nursing a calf injury for the better part of four weeks, seems finally back to full strength.
“I took the calf sleeve off, so it’s feeling good,” Bledsoe said. “I was fired up [against Indiana] because we were down 20-plus points and I just tried to come in and give our team the energy that was missing.”
He had seven points and five assists against the Pacers and could wreak havoc in reserve of Paul. While Dragic is one of Phoenix’s primary offensive options, he is backed up by rookie Kendall Marshall. When Bledsoe was at his disruptive best earlier in the season, it was while he was feasting on second-string point guards by pressuring the ball and helping the bench get out in transition.
Marshall has had 34 assists with just eight turnovers in the last five games, including two starts, but when his minutes have been extended the turnovers have come more frequently. He’s averaged 3.5 turnovers per game the last four times he’s played 25 minutes or more.
Chauncey Billups (groin) is not expected to play for the Clippers… Marcin Gortat (foot) will not play for the Suns… Suns guard Jared Dudley averages 11.3 points per game against the Clippers, his second highest career average against any opponent… The Clippers have won two in a row at home against the Suns… Willie Green has made 15 of his last 25 3-pointers and has the highest 3-point percentage (60.0%) in the NBA since Mar. 1 (minimum 25 attempts)…