What to watch: Clippers-Pistons

March, 18, 2012
3/18/12
10:03
AM PT
Clippers (25-18) vs. Detroit Pistons (16-28) at Staples Center, 12:30 p.m. PT

Five storylines to track:

1. Back-to-back: The Clippers play back-to-back afternoon games at Staples Center this weekend, and after beating the Houston Rockets on Saturday they will try to do something they haven’t done in a month: win consecutive games. The last time the Clippers won consecutive games was Feb. 15-16 against Washington and Portland. They haven’t won back-to-back games at home since January. This is the Clippers’ 11th set of back-to-back games this season; they own a 9-3 record in the first game and a 5-5 record in the second game. In the second game of back-to-backs, the Clippers have scored on average nearly 8 points fewer than in the first game.

2. Close call: After pulling out close games to start the season when they jumped out to a 19-9 record, the Clippers had fallen into a funk where they simply could not close out games. Since Chauncey Billups went down for the season, the Clippers were 9-11 and had lost nine of 14 games, and had an 8-8 record in games decided by five points or fewer. The Clippers were able to reverse that trend Saturday against the Rockets by coming back from six points down with less than three minutes left to win 95-91. “It was a grind out win for us,” Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said. “We had to make plays down the stretch and we didn’t shoot the ball particularly well which put a lot of pressure on us but Chris [Paul] made some big plays down the stretch.”

3. Young debut: After sitting out Saturday’s game, Nick Young could make his debut for the Clippers on Sunday. Young was traded to the Clippers on Thursday for a future second round pick and Brian Cook and figures to be an integral part of the team as they make a push for the playoffs. Young, who was averaging 16.6 points and 2.4 rebounds in 32 starts this season for the Washington Wizards, has tried to pick up on the offense since arriving at Staples Center and talking with Chris Paul and Chauncey Billups before Saturday's game. “I want to be somebody that can take the pressure off Chris and Blake [Griffin],” Young said. “With me knocking down shots, the lane will open up.”

4. Billups on the bench: Chauncey Billups made his return to the Clippers' bench on Saturday and his impact was felt quickly in the locker room and on the sidelines. While Billups will not be able to play again this season, he sat alongside the coaches and spent much of the game talking to Paul, Eric Bledsoe and Mo Williams. Paul even credited Billups with helping him take over the game in the final three minutes to lead the Clippers to the win. “He told me, ‘C, we need you to score, we need you to be more offensive-minded’ and I needed that,” Paul said. “I usually call him after every game and we talk about what he saw. It’s one thing to talk to him after the game when you can’t change what happens but now he’s here at the game and can help us.”

5. Stop complaining: A good portion of the Clippers’ hour long closed door meeting on Thursday had to do with the team’s incessant need to complain to officials after virtually every call. It has caused the Clippers to lose points, patience and games. Against the Rockets on Saturday, the Clippers were better than they have been in the past and it may have helped them get a call or two their way as they came back from six points down with less than three minutes left. “If you just play, you'll get more calls," Clippers guard Randy Foye said. “If you don't complain, you'll get more calls.”

Arash Markazi

ESPNLosAngeles.com

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