Monday, February 20, 2012
What to watch: Clippers-Warriors
By Arash Markazi
Clippers (19-10) vs. Golden State Warriors (11-17) at Oracle Arena, 7:30 p.m. PT
Five storylines to track:
1. Road warriors: Unlike their Staples Center neighbors, the Clippers have shown they can win on the road this season. The Clippers are 8-6 on the road this season and have won 7 of their last 9 games away from home after starting 1-4.The Clippers have never finished with an above .500 record on the road as a franchise and can actually equal their road win total from last season (9-32) with a win against Golden State on Monday. Not only have the Clippers been winning on the road, they’ve been coming back from big deficits to do so. Against Portland last week the Clippers overcame an 18-point deficit to defeat the Trail Blazers 74-71. The Clippers rally in Portland was the team’s fifth road win since Jan. 29 in which they have comeback from a deficit of 10 or more points. Prior to this season, the Clippers' last four road wins in which they overcame a double-digit deficit came in four different years.
2. The 20/20 Club:Blake Griffin recorded the first 20-point, 20-rebound game of his career against the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday when he had 22 points and 20 rebounds before fouling out. Griffin is the only player in the NBA this season averaging over 21 points, 11.0 rebounds and 3 assists. Griffin is also shooting 53.4% from the floor. Since the 1990-91 season, only four different players have finished a season with those averages and shooting percentage. Since the introduction of the shot clock in 1954 only 8 different players have finishes a season with those numbers and Griffin, 22, is the youngest to accomplish the feat so far.
3. Rebounding back: For the first time this season, the Clippers are in the top half of the NBA (14) in rebounding after being ranked last for much of the first month of the season. The biggest difference has been the return of Reggie Evans, who missed the first five games of the season with an off-season injury, and the signing of Kenyon Martin, who made his debut Feb. 8. Suddenly the Clippers no longer need to depend on Brian Cook and Solomon Jones for minutes when Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan need rest. In fact, since Evans’ return and Martin’s signing Jones has been cut and Cook hardly sees the floor anymore.The Clippers have outrebounded their opponents in their last nine games and have had more offensive rebounds in seven straight games. That should continue Monday night as the Warriors were outrebounded 45-31 Saturday against the Memphis Grizzlies. Golden State's minus-4.46 rebounding differential is one of the worst in the league while the Clippers' plus-3.14 margin is one of the best in the league.
4. Bounce back game:Chris Paul called his costly turnover at the end of regulation against the Spurs on Saturday the worst play of his career. He also promised it would never happen again and the Clippers for the most part simply chalked up the loss as another learning experience. “Obviously, disappointing and frustrating and all that, but there’s no time for a pity party here,” Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said Sunday afternoon. “We let one slip away yesterday and we’ve also been able to win some games down the stretch this year. You have to learn from it, you have to get better and you have to work.” The good news for the Clippers is they usually respond well after a loss. They have yet to lose back-to-back games in 2012. The last time the Clippers lost two in a row was on Dec. 28 and 30 at the start of this season.
5. Bledsoe's return: As disappointed as the Clippers were in not landing free agent guard J.R. Smith, who ended up signing with the New York Knicks, the Clippers got a pleasant surprise on Saturday with the play of second year guard Eric Bledsoe, who got his first extended minutes of the season after only playing a total of 19 minutes while recovering from off-season knee surgery. While he didn’t score, Bledsoe was a playmaker on the court in the third quarter, leading the Clippers to a 17-3 run to cut the Spurs’ 15-point lead and finishing with a team-high +14 in the +/- department. His between the legs pass to Griffin for a dunk on a fast break during that run could be sign of things to come in the future when he gets on the court.