- Arash Markazi, ESPN Staff Writer
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PLAYA VISTA, Calif. – “Beat L.A.!”
Chris Paul had heard the chant several times last year when the New Orleans Hornets played the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round of the playoffs. He grew up hearing the chant whenever he would watch the Lakers play on the road and he no doubt thought he might hear the chant during the two minutes or so he was supposedly on the Lakers.
Paul, however, has started to hear the chant every time the Clippers are on the road and it is one of the many signs he says he thinks the perception of the Clippers is beginning to change.
“I’m starting to hear that a lot,” Paul said. “It’s funny because our New Orleans fans used to chant that all the time against the Lakers. It makes the game that much more exciting. It's good.”
This season the Clippers are the biggest draw in the NBA on the road, averaging 19,441, putting them ahead of the Los Angeles Lakers (19,126), Miami Heat (18,973) and Boston Celtics (18,076).
“That’s how it’s going to be,” Clippers guard Randy Foye said. “Every game this season, and this is something new for me, is sold out and fans are there cheering an hour or so before the game. That’s great, that’s something this team hasn’t had and something this city has never seen from this team.”
Foye has even started seeing a change in the way opposing teams at home act when they play the Clippers; perhaps feeding off the energy of the sold our crowd.
“Every shot they made last night from the beginning, those guys were on the court celebrating,” Foye said of the Golden State Warriors. “Even if they lost and kept the game close it was an accomplishment.”
After playing eight of their past 10 games on the road, the Clippers return home Wednesday night to play the Denver Nuggets in their last game before the All-Star break. Many players on the team have circled the game on the schedule for the past three weeks, not only because it’s the last game before the break but also because the Nuggets beat the Clippers 112-91 when they last met on Feb. 2. It was the Clippers’ most lopsided loss at home this season.
“We have to come out tomorrow night and give a good showing against Denver, we owe those guys,” Paul said. “What better way to go into the All-Star break than with a win. We have to win. You can’t be OK with losing. It’s always nice to smile and have fun, but if you look at us after a loss we’re mad and that’s a good sign. They beat us here at home and we need to get this win for our minds going into All-Star break.”
5dMarc Stein and Tim MacMahon