- Arash Markazi, ESPN Staff Writer
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Clippers (17-8) vs. Dallas Mavericks (17-11) at American Airlines Arena, 5:30 p.m. PT
Five storylines to track:
1. Butler gets his ring -- Caron Butler may be the only active player on the Clippers with a championship to his name (after Chauncey Billups was lost for the season last week) but he still doesn’t have his championship ring. That will change before the Clippers’ game against the Mavericks on Monday night when Butler will be presented with his ring during a pre-game ceremony. Butler missed the final 53 games of last season with a ruptured right patellar tendon but he was a fan favorite in Dallas and an inspirational locker room presence during the championship run, according to Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. Butler will be joined by his wife, Andrea, and his three daughters, seven-year old Mia, 19-month old Ava and newborn Gia at the ceremony.
2. Historic road trip -- The Clippers are currently 4-1 on their 11-day, 6-game road trip and a win over Dallas would give them a 5-1 road record on a road trip of six games or longer for the first time in franchise history. The last time the Clippers won 4 games on a trip of six or more games was from Jan. 30 - Feb. 8, 2006. The Clippers went 4-2 on that trip. Since the 1989-90 season, that is the only winning road trip of six or more games for the Clippers. The Clippers have not beaten the Mavericks in Dallas since 2006 and had lost 10 straight to the Mavericks before beating them on Jan. 18. This year the Clippers have already snapped a 9-game losing streak at Denver against the Nuggets, a 16-game losing streak at Utah against the Jazz and a 9-game losing streak to the Orlando Magic.
3. Defensive focus -- There’s no question the Clippers make headlines and highlight reels with their lob dunks but their success this season comes when they perform on defense. The Clippers are 9-0 this season when holding their opponents to under 90 points and are 13-2 when holding their opponents to under 100 points. The Clippers are also one of three undefeated teams this season when allowing 95 or fewer points. At the start of the season the Clippers were at the bottom of the league in rebounding and points allowed and are slowly working their way towards the top half. They are now 18th in points allowed and 23rd in rebounding. It’s still nowhere near as productive as they are on offense, of course, where they rank 5th in points per game and 8th in assists per game.
4. Griffin’s rise continues -- Blake Griffin’s improved free throw shooting has continued during this current road trip. Over the last four games he is 22-of-27 (81.5%) from the foul line after averaging 49% prior to the road trip. His improvement from the foul-line only adds to what has so far been an unparalleled season for Griffin. He is the only player this season in the NBA averaging over 21 points, 11 rebounds and 3 assists per game. Since the introduction of the shot clock in 1954, only 8 different players (Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bob Lanier, Artis Gilmore, Jeff Ruland, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone and Shaquille O’Neal) have finished a season with those averages.
5. Williams back on track -- After having a difficult homecoming against the Cleveland Cavaliers last week and losing his grandfather, Mo Williams had 9 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists against the Charlotte Bobcats on Saturday. Williams arrived at the arena just before tipoff after attending his grandfather’s funeral in Jackson, Mississippi. Williams’ play off the bench this season is the biggest reason why Randy Foye and not Williams is starting for Billups. Williams is simply too valuable as a reserve and is a leading candidate for Sixth Man of the Year honors. This season, the Clippers bench has scored a total of 569 points and Williams, who is averaging 13.8 points and 3.6 assists, has accounted for 51.1% of those points. Williams is shooting 46.8% from the field this season, his best in four years.
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