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Saturday, February 11, 2012
Clippers-Bobcats: What to Watch

By Arash Markazi

Clippers (16-8) vs. Charlotte Bobcats (3-23) at Time Warner Cable Arena, 4 p.m. PT

Five storylines to track:

ClipsBobcats1. Paul’s homecoming – Normally a game against the lowly Charlotte Bobcats wouldn’t bring out the best in your superstar player but that will not be case for the Clippers on Saturday. Chris Paul, who was born in Lewisville and went to school at Wake Forrest, is returning home and will be playing in front of his friends and family. As Paul tweeted as the team boarded the charter flight Friday night, “WHEELS UP to CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA!!! Can't wait to get there and see ALL my fam and friends..."I'm comin home again" *Kanye Voice*” Paul scored a game-high 24 points, including the game-winner in the  Clippers’ 78-77 win over the Philadelphia 76ers Friday night. A similar performance against Charlotte on Saturday likely wouldn’t require a game-winner at the end of the game.

2. Playing down – The Clippers are learning not to play down to their competition and take teams lightly this season. It’s obviously a new concept for the Clippers, who for years played the role of the mediocre competition, but it is one they learned quickly after losing to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday. Against Charlotte, which has lost 13 straight games and has lost 3 of their last 5 games by at least 30 points, the Clippers want to put the game away early and let their bench take over in the second half. With one game left on their six-game road trip against the Dallas Mavericks on Monday, the Clippers can not afford to play another game down to the wire as they have in their three games.

3. Fast start – The Clippers’ 16-8 start is their best start to a season since 1974-75 when they were known as the Buffalo Braves. Back then, NBA MVP and scoring champion Bob McAdoo led the Braves to a 21-8 start and to a 49-33 record, still the best in franchise history. With a win against Charlotte, the Clippers move to 17-8 in their first 25 games. There have 7 been occasions in Clippers history where the team failed to win more than 17 games over the course of an entire season.

4. Free points -- Perhaps the biggest development during this extended road trip has been the Clippers’ improvement from the free-throw line as a team. Over their last three games the Clippers are shooting 82.6% (57-of-69) from the foul line. It’s a significant increase from their season free-throw average of 67% and coincides with Blake Griffin’s improvement from the line. Prior to missing his only two attempts against Philadelphia, he had made 15-of-17 (88.2%) from the foul line in the last two games.

5. Martin getting comfortable – The Clippers’ newest addition, Kenyon Martin, continues to get comfortable with his new team and teammates. Despite never getting a chance to play with his old teammate, Chauncey Billups, who recruited him to sign with Los Angeles, Martin is already playing key minutes for the Clippers off the bench and late in games. Martin played 23 minutes off the bench for the Clippers Friday (second only to Mo Williams’ 33 minutes as a reserve) and had 3 points, 7 rebounds and 1 blocked shot. Martin passed the ball to Paul for his game-winner with 3.2 seconds left. Martin made his debut for the Clippers against Cleveland Wednesday after playing in China during the NBA lockout. The combination of Martin and Reggie Evans gives the Clippers one of the more intimidating 1-2 punches in the paint off the bench.