What to watch: Clippers-Lakers

April, 4, 2012
4/04/12
10:07
AM PT
Clippers (32-21) vs. Los Angeles Lakers (34-20) at Staples Center, 7:30 p.m. PT

Five storylines to track:

1. They’re streaking: Maybe Vinny Del Negro should be on the hot seat more often. After Del Negro's job security was reportedly in doubt after the Clippers lost three games in three days, the Clippers have won six straight for the first time in 20 years. The Clippers’ 94-75 win over the Dallas Mavericks on Monday gave the Clippers their first six-game winning streak since March 18-31, 1992. It is the longest time in NBA history between winning streaks of more than five times. The previous longest drought was over 12 years, by the Denver Nuggets, between January 1991 and December 2003. The longest winning streak in franchise history is 11 games from Nov. 3-23, 1974 when the Clippers were the Buffalo Braves. Since relocating to Los Angeles in 1984, the Clippers have had just three winning streaks of six games or longer. The Clippers' longest winning streak in Los Angeles was eight games from Nov. 30-Dec.15, 1991.

2. Foye on fire: Clippers guard Randy Foye tied a franchise-record for most 3-pointers made in a game against the Mavericks on Monday when he hit eight three-pointers, going 8-of-15 from beyond the arc. Foye finished with a season-high 28 points on 10-of-19 shooting from the field. In the last three games, Foye has been averaging 21.6 points and 3.3 assists while shooting 57 percent (27-of-47) from the field, 48.4 percent (16-of-33) from three-point range and is also 5-of-5 from the free-throw line. Foye has improved his play in the absence of Mo Williams, who also had a big game from beyond the arc this season when he hit seven three-pointers in the Clippers’ win over San Antonio last month.

3. Big games: The Clippers have been one of the best teams this season against good teams. The Clippers are 19-12 this season against teams at or above .500. Their .613 win percentage against such teams is the fifth-highest in the NBA this season. The Clippers have also won four of the last five meetings with the Lakers as the home team. That is the Clippers’ best five-game stretch at home in the all-time series since both teams moved into the Staples Center entering the 1999-2000 season. The Clippers and Lakers have split their two games this season, with the home team winning each game. The Clippers won both times the teams played this preseason.

4. Lob City: Despite getting grief for the nickname, the Clippers have lived up to the “Lob City” tag this season. They’ve recorded 82 alley-oop dunks this season, most in the NBA, followed by the Lakers with 70 and the Knicks with 59. The Clippers also have recorded the most dunks this season with 318. The Clippers have two of the top three dunkers in the NBA as Blake Griffin leads the league with 155 dunks and DeAndre Jordan is third with 116. Lakers center Andrew Bynum is fourth with 115 dunks this season while Pau Gasol is 13th with 65 dunks.

5. Playoff push: Wednesday’s game between the Clippers and Lakers will go a long way in deciding which team will win the Pacific Division this season. A Lakers win would give them a 2.5-game lead on the Clippers plus the head-to-head tiebreaker, while a Clippers win would move the Clippers within a half game of the Lakers and give the Clippers the head-to-head tiebreaker. The winner of the Pacific Division will likely get the third seed in the West behind the Oklahoma City Thunder and the San Antonio Spurs and avoid playing the Thunder until the Conference Finals. As it stands now the Lakers would play the Mavericks and the Clippers would play the Grizzlies in the first round of the playoffs if the season ended today.

Arash Markazi

ESPNLosAngeles.com

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