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Saturday, March 24, 2012
What to watch: Clippers-Grizzlies

By Arash Markazi

Clippers (26-21) vs. Memphis Grizzlies (25-20) at Staples Center, 12 p.m. PT

Five storylines to track:

1. Scoring woes: One of the league’s highest scoring teams earlier in the season has had a hard time even getting close to 100 points as of late. The Clippers have now gone nine straight games without hitting the century mark and have reached 100 points in only four of their last 18 games. They are 7-12 in their last 19 games. This season, the Clippers are 16-3 when scoring over 100 points and 10-18 when scoring under the century mark. Scoring 100 points on the road has been even more critical for the Clippers who are 9-1 when scoring over 100 and 2-12 when they don’t. The Clippers ranked in the top five in points and assists through the first 30 games of the season but currently rank 14th in points and 18th in assists.

2. Losing streak: The Clippers are currently in the midst of their first three-game losing streak of the season. It is the first time since April 6-April 9, 2011 that the Clippers had dropped three in a row. Last season, the Clippers had six stretches where they lost three or more games. One of the biggest problems for the Clippers on their current losing streak is their inability to hit the long ball. Against the New Orleans Hornets on Thursday the Clippers shot 18.5 percent from the three-point line (5-of-27). Since the 1986-87 season, it is the lowest 3-point shooting percentage for the Clippers when they have attempted at least 25 shots from beyond the arc. The Clippers went 0-for-14 from the three-point line in the second half against the Hornets.

3. Jordan returns: A lightning rod for criticism at times this season has been Clippers center DeAndre Jordan. After a strong start to the season, he has been so streaky after the all-star break that Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro benched him during the fourth quarter during several games this month. Jordan has actually played better as of late despite the team’s losing streak. In the last two games, Jordan is averaging 13.0 points and 7.5 rebounds while shooting 78.5 percent (11-of-14 from the field) and going 4-of-6 from the foul line. The biggest problem for Jordan, however, has been his defense. For the first time this season, Jordan has gone two straight games without recording a block.

4. Playoffs? Playoffs?: Heading into their Feb. 18 game against the San Antonio Spurs, the Clippers were the No. 2 seed in the West and the No. 4 seed in the entire NBA. They had a 95-92 lead with 9.5 seconds left against the Spurs before Chris Paul gave the ball and the game away. Since then the Clippers are 7-12 and are just one loss separates them from being out of the playoffs. In fact, the West playoff race is so tight that only 2.5 games separate the No. 4 seed and the No. 10 seed. The Clippers have also gone from a three-game lead in the Pacific Division on the Lakers to being 3.5 games back of their Staples Center neighbors.

5. Offensive CP3: It seems if the Clippers are going to turn around their season, it will be up to Chris Paul to become more of an offensive force. In the 23 Clippers wins Paul has played in, he is averaging 22.1 points, 8.8 assists and shooting 52.2 percent from the field. In the 19 losses he has played in, Paul’s scoring has dropped nearly six points, as he is averaging 16.2 points, 8.1 assists and shooting 43.3 percent from the field. Paul normally waits for the fourth quarter to pick up his offensive production. Paul is sixth in the NBA in 4th quarter scoring average this season, and leads the league with 96 points scored in the final five minutes of games that are within four points.