Monday, March 26, 2012
What to watch: Clippers-Hornets
By Arash Markazi
Clippers (27-21) vs. New Orleans Hornets (12-36) at Staples Center, 7:30 p.m. PT
Five storylines to track:
1. Payback: Chris Paul’s homecoming last week in New Orleans didn’t go quite as well as he had hoped. The Clippers not only lost 97-90 to the last place Hornets but Jason Smith gave Blake Griffin a cheap shot foul towards the end of the game that resulted in a two-game suspension. The suspension rules Smith out of the game in Los Angeles but it doesn’t rule out the Clippers from exacting a measure of revenge on the rest of the Hornets. The Clippers’ loss to New Orleans last week completed a winless back-to-back-to-back road trip for the team and put Vinny Del Negro on the hot seat. A win over New Orleans just four days later would put the Clippers just two games behind the Lakers in the Pacific Division and in sole possession of fourth place in the Western Conference.
2. Another homecoming: While much was made of Paul’s homecoming to New Orleans last week, Monday will be Chris Kaman’s first trip back to Los Angeles to play the Clippers. Kaman, Eric Gordon and Al-Farouq Aminu were sent to New Orleans in the Paul trade in December but only Kaman and Aminu will be on the floor against the Clippers. Gordan has only played in two games during the first two weeks of the season before being sidelined with an injured right knee. Kaman scored 20 points and grabbed 10 rebounds while Aminu scored 6 points and grabbed 3 rebounds in the Hornets win over the Clippers last week.
3. Back on track: The Clippers moved back to six games over .500 (27-21) with their win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday. It's only the third time that the Clippers have been more than five games over .500 this many games into a season since moving to Los Angeles in 1984. They finished the season eight games over .500 in 1991-92 and 12 games over .500 in 2005-06. Those are the only two seasons in which the Clippers finished over .500 since moving to L.A. The Clippers play their next four games at home and play 7 of the next 8 in California.
4. Turn of the century: For the first time in ten games the Clippers hit the 100 point mark on Sunday in their 101-85 win over Memphis. It snapped a streak of nine straight games in which the Clippers failed to score 100 points, dating back to a March 9th win over San Antonio. This season, the Clippers are 17-3 when scoring over 100 points and 10-18 when scoring under the century mark. Hitting the 100 point mark on the road has become even more important for the Clippers who are 9-1 when scoring over 100 points but just 2-12 when scoring under 100 points.
5. Streaking: The Clippers snapped a three-game losing streak on Sunday as they remained one of eight teams in the NBA to not have a four-game losing streak this season. The Clippers, however, haven’t won three games in a row this season since winning four straight from Jan. 26-Feb. 1. They went a full month without winning consecutive games before winning back-to-back games before their winless three-game road trip last week. As much as the Clippers have struggled, Caron Butler said if they can have a successful five-game home stand this week, they’ll be in good shape heading into the last month of the season. “I don’t want to worry about the standings, I just want to win games and protect home court” Butler said. “Our next four games are at home so let’s go streaking.”