Game Preview: Clippers host Hornets, looking to maintain recent momentum
For the most part, Friday was a good day in Clipper-land. They’re hoping to keep the momentum rolling into the new year, beginning the last day of 2017.
The Clippers (15-19) – now just 2.5 games out of the eighth playoff seed in the West – will take on a hot and cold Charlotte Hornets (13-22) team on Sunday at STAPLES Center, looking to avenge a 102-87 loss in Charlotte on Nov. 18.
On Friday, the Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers faced off for the third time this season, and not only did the Clippers earn their third victory over their hometown rivals, they did it behind the return of superstar forward Blake Griffin, who was back in the lineup after missing 14 games due to a sprained MCL in his left knee.
Griffin suffered the injury during the Clippers and Lakers second matchup on Nov. 27, a 120-115 win for the Clippers. He was originally slated to miss up to eight weeks, but after last night’s return, he missed only a little more than four weeks. He scored 24 points to go along with 6 rebounds and 6 assists.
Friday’s win marked the Clippers’ 21st victory over the Lakers in the two teams’ last 23 matchups.
In addition to the win, the Clippers saw a season-high seven players score in double figures, highlighted by Griffin’s 24, and a combined 38 points from guard Lou Williams (23) and forward Montrezl Harrell (15) off the bench.
Forward Wesley Johnson also returned on Friday, after missing the past five games with a foot injury. He logged a rebound, assist and steal in 10 minutes off the bench.
Yes, for the most part, Friday was a good day. But it wasn’t without one major hiccup, in the form of an Achilles strain for Clippers guard Austin Rivers.
Rivers suffered the Achilles strain in the third quarter and is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game. He is averaging 23.2 points and 4.6 assists over the last five games, and 15.8 points on the season, a career-high.
"We just keep rolling,” said Coach Doc Rivers after the game. “It doesn't matter who is on the floor. We play like a team, we play hard, we defend hard. Our job is to figure it out each game until we get everybody back."
Coming into town on Sunday will be a Hornets team that is 2-2 in its last four, but coming off of arguably its best win of the season, a 111-100 win at Golden State, led by former perennial all-star center Dwight Howard, who scored a season-high 29 points to go along with 13 rebounds.
On Wednesday, the Hornets fell to Boston in Charlotte, and on Friday and Saturday of last week, they split an away-home back-to-back with Milwaukee.
Sunday’s game will tip off at 4 p.m.