Clippers (23-17) vs. Atlanta Hawks (24-18) at Staples Center, 7:30 p.m. PT
Five storylines to track:
1. Same old story: Late game collapses have become a tired trend for the Clippers and one they simply have not been able to reverse no matter how many times they talk about it after losing close games. They are now 4-8 in their last 12 games and have been tied or in the lead in nearly every one of those contests. They are 8-8 in games decided by 5 points or less and 8-10 since losing Chauncey Billups for the season last month. They are a team that simply looks lost down the stretch at the end of games and the confidence they once had late in close games has completely disappeared.
2. Bad streaks: The Clippers haven’t lost three straight games this season and haven’t lost four straight at home in two years. Both streaks are in play as the Clippers play the Hawks Wednesday night and try to break out of a funk they’ve been in for over a month now. From Jan. 1-Feb.16, the Clippers didn’t lose back-to-back games and won consecutive games on six occasions, including a four-game winning streak and two three-game winning streaks. Since Feb. 18, however, the Clippers have failed to win back-to-back games and have lost consecutive games three times. “I can't stand to lose. It's not acceptable," Chris Paul said Monday. “We talked about it after the game; that everybody has got to do their part. We're going to watch film and figure it out.”
3. Jordan problems: DeAndre Jordan smiled when he was asked about his offensive struggles this week, saying that he always struggles offensively but the month of March has been particularly bad for the Clippers’ center. He’s been averaging 3.8 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game in March and has rarely seen the court in the fourth quarter. Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said Jordan's energy level has been an issue but is hopeful his 13 rebounds against Boston, his most since February, will help get him back on track. “I thought he was very active. He probably should have played more,” Del Negro said Monday. “When [Boston] went small in the second half it was hard because we were struggling to score. But I did like DeAndre’s activity and his energy was very good. That’s what we need from him every night.”
4. Trade deadline: Wednesday night’s game against Atlanta is the last game before Thursday’s trade deadline and while the Clippers say they are content with the roster they currently have, Del Negro and Clippers gernal manager Neil Olshey said they will not hesitate to make a move that will improve the team. The most likely players to be included in a deal would be point guard Eric Bledsoe, a future first-round pick and the expiring contracts of Randy Foye and/or Brian Cook. Such a package could net the Clippers a veteran shooting guard to replace Billups such Boston's Ray Allen, Portland's Jamal Crawford or Washington's Nick Young but no deal seems imminent at the moment.
5. Billups back: Since he was lost for the season last month with a ruptured Achilles tendon, Chauncey Billups’ jersey has hung in the Clippers’ locker room on game days, home and away. Billups will actually be sitting his locker room this week as he is expected to return to the team Wednesday and be on the sideline for the game against Atlanta as he continues his rehab in Los Angeles. While he will not be able to play again this season, just his presence in the locker room and on the bench could help the Clippers as they try to break out of the funk they’ve been in since Billups left. “Hopefully he can help cheer us on when he's here,” Paul said. “I hope he can help.”