Los Angeles Clippers: L.A.

Kobe enjoys playing in 'Clipper building'

January, 1, 2013
1/01/13
11:39
PM PT
LOS ANGELES -- There are several hostile environments on the road that seem to bring out the best in Kobe Bryant.

He has always enjoyed playing in New York and Philadelphia and has taken added pleasure in silencing the crowds in San Antonio and Sacramento.

But one of his top two favorite road arenas is actually his home court.

“When this building turns into the Clipper building, it’s probably my second favorite place to play after New York,” Bryant said Tuesday night. “They do a really good job and have a lot of energy in the building.”

“At least when they play us, the years I’ve been in the league, even when they were awful, it was always a fun place to play because the fans really got into it and it was one of those city rivalry type of games. It’s always been a fun place for me to play.”

Bryant and the Lakers will take on the Clippers Friday night in what will be a Clippers home game at Staples Center. (The Clippers defeated the Lakers in a Lakers home game 105-95 on Nov. 2.)

The Clippers-Lakers rivalry took on an entirely new meaning before last season, when a proposed trade that would have sent Chris Paul to the Lakers was nixed and he eventually was dealt to the Clippers. Paul instantly changed the culture of his new team and led the Clippers to their most successful season. And so far this season he’s again been a force, and now the Clips have the best record in the NBA.

“He’s just a moody, little dude,” Bryant said of Paul. “He’s just a moody, little dude. He’s very feisty and he plays with a chip on his shoulder, and I think that becomes infectious.”

One thing the Clippers won’t have coming into Friday is a winning streak, after the Clippers’ suffered their first loss in 18 games Tuesday in Denver. The defeat, which came a week after the Lakers lost in Denver, brought a smile to Bryant’s face.

“I’m glad it ain’t just us that gets our a-- kicked in Denver,” Bryant said. “We’ll be ready to go [Friday].”

Rapid Reaction: Clippers 92, Spurs 87

November, 19, 2012
11/19/12
9:05
PM PT
The Los Angeles Clippers heard the skeptics as they began the season with a 7-2 record, including wins over five of the best teams in the league. As good as the Clippers looked, they had played eight of their first nine games at Staples Center and had traveled outside of Los Angeles only once since Oct. 25.

The Clippers’ four-game road trip, which began Monday night in San Antonio, would show how real the Clippers were. After all, the Clippers had lost 18 straight games at San Antonio before winning at the AT&T Center last season. They also had been swept out of the second round of the playoffs last season by the Spurs.

This season, however, is different.

The Clippers not only beat the Spurs 92-87 on Monday, they have beaten the Spurs twice this season. The Clippers have not defeated the Spurs twice in same season since 1996-97, which was the season before Tim Duncan was drafted. That was also the last time the Clippers won back-to-back games in San Antonio.

“This is a tough place to play,” Clippers guard Chris Paul, who finished with 19 points and 8 assists, told Prime Ticket immediately after the game. “These guys were in my division when I was in New Orleans and we might have won here only once or twice before, so this was a good grind-out win for us to start this road trip.”

Here are three takeaways from the game:

Barnes’ impact:

The Clippers made headlines this offseason when they overhauled their bench by trading for Lamar Odom and Willie Green and signing Jamal Crawford, Grant Hill, Ryan Hollins and Ronny Turiaf. Before the start of training camp, the Clippers also inked Matt Barnes to a one-year deal for the veteran’s minimum after Paul pushed the front office to sign him after discovering he was a free-agent during a pick-up basketball game at the Clippers' training facility this summer. It might not have made as much news as their other pickups, but Barnes has been the Clippers’ biggest offseason addition beyond Crawford. He was a spark plug off the bench for the Clippers, scoring 14 points and grabbing nine rebounds, to go along with three steals in 23 minutes. All of his baskets and rebounds came at crucial moments of the game as he helped the Clippers take a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter and remained in the game along with the starters.

“Matt Barnes gets the game ball tonight,” Paul said. “He played just about the whole second half. He’s the most in-shape player on our team as you can see, and he won the game for us tonight."

Griffin and Paul finish strong:

Prior to Monday night, the Clippers had jumped out to leads of at least 20 points in their past five wins, thanks in large part to a deep a bench. The play of their second unit has enabled Paul and Blake Griffin to essentially be spectators in the fourth quarter this season as both players are averaging career lows in minutes played. Against the Spurs, the Clippers needed both Paul and Griffin to finish the game, and they responded as you would expect: Griffin had 16 points and 12 rebounds, and Paul scored 11 second-half points. Paul's only basket in the fourth quarter, however, was his biggest of the game, as he backed down Tony Parker in the paint and scored from 10 feet out to put the game away with 24.9 seconds left.

“This sets a great tone,” Paul said, “especially the way we won. Like I've said all season long, it’s not going to be one guy with 30 or 40 points. It’s a team effort every night for us.”

Bledsoe and the bench:

Before the game, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said Eric Bledsoe was probably the most underrated played in the league.

“It’s like nobody knows who he is,” Popovich told reporters before the game. “But he’s a hell of a weapon.”

Popovich and the Spurs got a good look at what a weapon Bledsoe can be on Monday, as he was all over the court, scoring 9 points, grabbing 5 rebounds and getting 2 steals. The bench again was huge for the Clippers, who fell behind by 10 points in the first quarter with the starters in the game but went into the half with a five-point lead after outscoring the Spurs 29-14 in the second quarter thanks a 19-2 run.

“We got off to a bad start, but our bench is not your typical bench,” Paul said. “They got the lead for us.”

Rapid Reaction: Cavaliers 108, Clippers 101

November, 5, 2012
11/05/12
10:13
PM PT


LOS ANGELES -- Maybe the Los Angeles Clippers only focused on the opening two games of the season against the Memphis Grizzlies and Los Angeles Lakers and totally forgot about the next two.

Perhaps that’s the best way to explain the Clippers’ lethargic performances in back-to-back games now against the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers. On Monday night, the Clippers, still smarting from a 114-110 loss to the Warriors, trailed for most of the game, fell behind by 13 points in the third quarter and eventually lost 108-101, falling to 2-2 after a 2-0 start to the season.

Here are three takeaways from the game:

Slow start

Maybe the Clippers’ lackluster performance on Saturday could be chalked up to having a letdown game after opening up against their two rivals. Maybe they could have blamed it on their first back-to-back of the season (even though they were playing at home). Whatever the case may be, the Clippers had a built-in excuse for Saturday’s loss. But they had no one but themselves to blame for the way they played Monday night against Cleveland. They looked completely uninterested in the game after saying for the previous 24 hours they had learned a lesson from the Golden State game and would demonstrate how much they learned against their next opponent in Cleveland. Apparently their lesson didn’t quite sink in.

Defensive breakdown

It was one thing for the Clippers to allow Golden State to score 114 points on Saturday, it was another to allow the Cavaliers to score 108 points 48 hours later. Not only did Kyrie Irving put up 24 points, the Clippers allowed Cleveland’s rookies Tyler Zeller and Dion Waiters to score a combined 43 points on 16-of-27 shooting. Zeller was knocked out of the game after getting elbowed by DeAndre Jordan on a rebound attempt, but even that didn't slow down Cleveland as Waiters hit a couple of clutch 3-pointers and finished the game with a game-high 28 points. On the night, five Cavaliers scored in double digits as Cleveland went 40-for-92 from the field, attempting nearly 20 more shots than the Clippers.

Comebacks

As bad the Clippers have played for the first 40 or so minutes of their last two games, falling behind by double-digits in the second half, they have mounted a comeback on both occasions. They have tied the game and gotten the crowd back into it, only to fail in finishing the job. After tying the game late in the fourth quarter against Cleveland, the Clippers allowed Waiters to hit back-to-back 3-pointers that gave the Cavaliers a six-point cushion. When the Clippers pulled within three points in the final minute, Irving again hit a 3-pointer to put the game away. The Clippers' defense wasn't just bad, it was bad at the most crucial moments. The Clippers could have overcome a season-high 25 turnovers if they could play defense, but their inability to get key stops late in the game was one of the biggest reasons the Clippers' comeback came up short for the second straight outing. Then again, these aren't the kind of games the Clippers should need to come back from.

Clippers have a new rival in Memphis

November, 1, 2012
11/01/12
12:42
AM PT
LOS ANGELES -- When Chris Paul was sitting at home during the summer, watching NBA TV one day, he sat in his living room transfixed as he watched replays the Los Angeles Clippers’ seven-game playoffs series against the Memphis Grizzlies.

He had so much fun watching Reggie Evans at one moment during the marathon replay that he picked up the phone and called his former teammate to reminisce about the first-round series.

“I’ll never forget that,” Paul said. “I actually watched it all. It’s something I’ll never forget.”

When the NBA schedule was released soon after, Paul knew exactly what the league was doing when they pitted the Clippers against the Grizzlies so early. They essentially wanted to start the season with a Game 8 between the two teams.

“When the schedule was released over the summer, I’m sure players on both teams were like, ‘I’m sure this isn’t a coincidence,’” Paul said. “I’m sure this was on purpose.”

If the league was hoping for an extension of the Clippers and Grizzlies' playoff series and refueling the fire of a budding rivalry, they got their wish Wednesday night.

Blake Griffin and Zach Randolph went at each other for most of the game, as if their playoff series had never ended. It nearly manifested into a fight in the fourth quarter, when the two had to be separated on two occasions, with Randolph pulling Griffin down from behind on a third occasion.

“We didn’t really say much to each other,” Griffin said with a smile after the game. “It’s one of those things, after 48 minutes of pushing and shoving and being down low on both ends, it gets to you after a while.”

After the game Randolph said he enjoys messing with Griffin, but that it seems Griffin now knows that he’s messing with him more than he did last season. Instead of overreacting after every missed foul, Griffin will either move on or, as he did following back-to-back altercations, simply smile at Randolph.

“I kind of [knew he was messing with me] last year, too, but you have to know what guys are doing and why they’re doing it,” Griffin said. “For me, it’s important to not get involved and to stay focused and not play anybody else’s game and play my own game.”

When Griffin was again asked about Randolph, he deadpanned, “Yeah, we’re going to go have dinner now.”

The budding rivalry between the Clippers and Grizzlies -- and between Griffin and Randolph -- is a vital part of the growth process of the Clippers. Sure, they have a rivalry with the Lakers, but that’s more a product of the city they play in and arena they share than playoff meetings (none) and historical comparisons (few and far between).

Inside of the Clippers’ practice facility is a display case where they keep such artifacts as the NBA Lottery balls that helped them draft Blake Griffin and various trophies for community service their owner, Donald Sterling, has been given. It is currently void of any division, conference or league titles.

But during the offseason, the team placed a painted game ball from Game 7 of the Grizzlies series in the case. It was, after all, only their third playoff series win in franchise history and the first Game 7 win.

When you’re trying to build a winning culture, coming back from 24 points down with less than eight minutes left on the road in the playoffs, as the Clippers did in Game 1, then coming back to win a playoff series on the road in Game 7 are key moments.

Paul was continually asked about the Lakers heading into the season, but he knew the Grizzlies would be just as tough, if not tougher, than their neighbors at season’s start. As much attention as Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol may get, Paul said he thinks the tandem of Randolph and Marc Gasol, Pau’s brother, may be just as potent in the paint at this point.

“If someone was expecting a blowout tonight, they’re trippin’,” Paul said. “That’s a great team that we beat over there. They have a great coach and an unbelievable offense. Those two big men that they have are the two best big men in the game on the same team, as far as synergy. I don’t know anybody that knows how to pass and seal like those two guys. That’s a playoff team that we just beat in a tough first game.”

It was a tough first game that was really a continuation of the Clippers' playoffs run last season … and perhaps the start of their first real rivalry that isn't simply based on location.

Frank Reich loves comeback story

April, 30, 2012
4/30/12
4:17
PM PT
Frank Reich didn’t watch the Los Angeles Clippers complete the greatest comeback in NBA playoff history against the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday night. He was asleep as the Clippers came back from a 27-point deficit late in the third quarter and from 24 points down with 7:55 left in the game. But when Reich read the headlines online in the morning and saw the highlights on television, a big smile came over his face.

“Whenever I see a big comeback in any sport it make me think back to the comebacks I was apart of in college and in the NFL,” Reich said. “I always think back to the dynamics of those games and the good memories from being a part of those teams.”

Reich quarterbacked the Buffalo Bills to the greatest comeback in NFL history when he led the Bills back from a 35-3 third quarter deficit to a 41-38 overtime victory against the Houston Oilers in the 1992 AFC Wild Card playoffs. He also led the University of Maryland back from a 31-0 deficit against Miami in 1984 to a 42-40 victory, which was the biggest comeback in college football history at the time.

“The great thing about being a part of the greatest comeback is it’s such a team-oriented thing. It’s not like one guy just takes over,” said Reich, who was a quarterback in the NFL for 15 years and is now the receivers’ coach of the Arizona Cardinals. “You really do need everyone and everything to click in football and in basketball. Even if one guy scores 50 points, it’s the defensive play of the team that drives the comeback. It’s the same in football with your defense making stops and your special teams playing well. I do feel a connection when I see it happen. You take pride in the fact that you were on a team that did something special like that and when you see it happen in other sports it reminds me of that and it’s a great thing. I love that.”

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Young has the flu; Leslie recalled

April, 22, 2012
4/22/12
7:17
PM PT
LOS ANGELES – Los Angeles Clippers forward Nick Young did not dress for Sunday’s game against the New Orleans Hornets with flu-like symptoms and is listed as day-to-day.

Young is averaging 10.2 points and 1.9 rebounds in 20 games with the Clippers since being traded to Los Angeles last month.

The Clippers also recalled rookie guard Travis Leslie from the Bakersfield Jam of the NBA Development League on Sunday but Leslie was not active for the game against New Orleans.

Leslie has been with the Jam since March 30, and appeared in four playoff games with Bakersfield. In two separate stints with the Jam this season, Leslie appeared in 10 regular season games and averaged 10.2 points, 1.4 assists, 3.2 rebounds and shot 50.4 percent from the field in 20.4 minutes per game.

Leslie has averaged 1.4 points and 4.5 minutes in 10 games played for the Clippers this season.

What to watch: Clippers-Kings

April, 5, 2012
4/05/12
2:34
PM PT
Clippers (32-22) vs. Sacramento Kings (19-35) at Power Balance Pavilion, 7 p.m. PT

Five storylines to track:

1. Starting over: The Clippers will attempt to start a new winning streak Thursday against the Kings after they had their six-game winning streak snapped on Wednesday against the Lakers. It was the team’s longest winning streak since March 18-31, 1992. The Clippers also had a seven-game home winning streak broken in the loss. The Clippers hadn’t won seven straight since 1991. Despite the loss, the Clippers are still 10 games over .500 (32-22). It is 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’ 32-21 record this season after 53 games is also the second best in franchise history, trailing the 1974-75 Buffalo Braves who were 34-19 after 53 games.

2. Butler did it: If there is an X-factor on the Clippers this season, it’s Caron Butler. The Clippers are 18-9 when he scores 13 or more points and 12-7 when he had 5 or more rebounds. Against the Lakers, Butler scored a season-high 28 points, going 9-of-18 from the field, 4-of-8 from beyond the arc and 6-of-6 from the free-throw line, while grabbing 4 rebounds in 34 minutes. It was the most points Butler has scored in a game since he had 30 on Dec. 30, 2010 as a member of the Dallas Mavericks. It is the first time this season Butler has had over 25 points for the Clippers.

3. Clutch CP3: Clippers guard Chris Paul had 22 points and a season-high 16 assists against the Lakers on Wednesday. It was his 124th career game with at least 20 points and 10 assists and the most assists in a game for Paul since Jan. 26, 2011 when he had 17 for the New Orleans Hornets. It was the 17th time in Paul’s career that he has had 20 or more points and 16 or more assists and the first time since Dec. 18, 2009 when he had 30 points and 19 assists in a win over Denver. Paul is the only player in the NBA this season to average over 19.0 points and 9.0 assists per game and 2.0 steals.

4. Playoffs?: Perhaps the biggest fallout from the Clippers’ loss to the Lakers was where it put them in the race for the Pacific Division. Even if they beat the Kings in Sacramento on Thursday, they will be two full games behind the Lakers, who now hold the all-important tie-breaker if they finish with the same record. Suddenly their goal now with 12 games left in the season will be to secure the No. 4 seed and at least have home court advantage in the first round. If the Clippers beat the Kings they will be two games up on the Grizzlies and Mavericks and three games up on the Rockets and Nuggets.

5. Dunk City: After Blake Griffin’s two highlight reel dunks on Pau Gasol last night, he now has 154 dunks, the most in the NBA by 21. Clippers center DeAndre Jordan is third in the league with 116 dunks. Jordan is the only player in the NBA to have at least 115 dunks and 115 blocks this season. As a team the Clippers have recorded 82 alley-oop dunks this season, most in the NBA, followed by the Lakers with 70 and the Knicks with 59. The Clippers also have recorded the most dunks this season with 318.

Clippers on the verge of a milestone

March, 31, 2012
3/31/12
12:01
AM PT
Chris PaulAndrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty ImagesChris Paul is used to putting teams on his shoulders, but he says the Clippers' success depends on everyone.

LOS ANGELES -- As Chris Paul put on the T-shirt hanging in his locker room, he looked down at it and smiled.

The shirt featured a picture of Muhammad Ali with “The Greatest” written in big, bold, black letters.

Moments earlier, Paul had scored a driving layup with five seconds left to give the Los Angeles Clippers a 98-97 comeback win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday. It was the kind of proverbial knockout punch Paul has provided the Clippers time after time in clutch situations this season.

As Paul stood in the center of the Clippers' locker room, he laughed when he was asked about being the Clippers’ closer this season.

“This ain’t my first time,” said Paul, who finished with 20 points and 14 assists. “I’m used to it. I’ve been a starter every day since I’ve been in the NBA so I’ve been in this situation a number of times.”

When he was asked how many times he could continue putting his team on his back in the fourth quarter he simply said, “As many as it takes. It’s not just me. It’s a collective effort. We needed a defensive stop at the end. Caron [Butler] getting that big bucket. We just got to keep competing.”

There is no real secret to putting together a winning streak. There is often little difference between winning game one and winning game five but there has been something elusive to actually stringing wins together this season for the Clippers. For the first time since Feb. 1, the Clippers have now won four straight games and six straight at home.

The Clippers’ inability to win consistently obviously hasn’t been a problem confined to this season for the franchise. The last time the Clippers won five games in a row was November 2006. As far as winning streaks go, five is certainly not a big number. By comparison, the Utah Jazz, the Clippers’ opponent on Saturday, won six straight last week and won five straight earlier this season. If the season ended today the Jazz would not be in the playoffs.

“You obviously have to play well but this is such a strange season,” coach Vinny Del Negro said. “The games jump on you so fast. The month of March has been very difficult trying to incorporate new guys and just the scheduling. It comes down to the execution of the gameplan and playing together. It’s always a work in progress.”

(Read full post)

What to watch: Clippers-Celtics

March, 12, 2012
3/12/12
11:35
AM PT

Clippers (23-16) vs. Boston Celtics (21-19) at Staples Center, 7:30 p.m. PT

Five storylines to track:

1. Always be closing: When Phil Jackson was coaching the Lakers, he would always play Alec Baldwin’s famous speech from the movie "Glengarry Glen Ross" where Baldwin broke down the meaning of the A-B-C of sales. “A -- always; B -- be; C -- closing. Always be closing!” Well, it would behoove Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro to dust off that old DVD and show it to his team before they play the Celtics on Monday night. The Clippers have been anything but closers recently. In fact, they’ve been more like Jonathan Broxton on the mound trying to protect a one-run lead. The Clippers are 4-7 in their last 11 games, losing their last three by a combined nine points. They are now 8-8 in games decided by five points or fewer and look lost in critical situations down the stretch. “It's something we’re trying to figure out,” Blake Griffin said. “If we knew, it would be easier. It’s one of those things where we talk about it and we’re just flat a lot.”

2. Starters disappear: The Clippers are at their best when everyone gets involved in the offense early and are at their absolute worst when one or more starters completely disappears. Against the Warriors on Sunday, both DeAndre Jordan and Caron Butler were practically invisible. They combined for five points and didn’t play at all after the midway point of the third quarter. For the second time in a week, Butler failed to record a single field goal, going 0-for-6. He hadn’t failed to score a field goal for six years before doing it against Minnesota on March 5.

3. Bench mob: Perhaps the only positive takeaway from the Clippers’ loss to Golden State on Sunday were the performances of Reggie Evans and Eric Bledsoe off the bench. The duo helped the Clippers erase a 21-point deficit in the third quarter and helped tie the game with 4:30 left. Evans finished with 11 points and 12 rebounds while Bledsoe had four steals, three assists and two points, and helped set up one big play after another during the Clippers’ run. Even Bobby Simmons stepped up and added six points and two rebounds during the stretch. All three players finished with a plus/minus of at least plus-12. The problem: Mo Williams, who is usually the only consistent scorer off the bench, was nowhere to be found. He started the game 0-for-7 and finished with just three points after hitting one 3-pointer.

4. Masked man: Chris Paul wore a protective mask against Golden State for the first time in his career and will likely have to wear it for the next two weeks after suffering a nasal fracture against San Antonio last week. It was clear the mask was bothersome for Paul at the beginning of the game as he continued to play with it in between plays and completely took it off during longer stoppages. "It's different,” Paul said. “But it doesn't inhibit anything.” The mask didn’t seem to slow down Paul after the first quarter as he had 23 points, five assists and three steals. Paul, however, was still kicking himself after the game for missing three free throws and all four of his 3-point attempts. “That's the real story of this,” Paul said after the loss. “We beat ourselves.”

5. Turning point: There’s never one reason why a team hits a wall; it’s usually a variety of factors that come together at once. But if the Clippers had to pick one turning point in their season, it has to be at Orlando Feb. 6, when the Clippers beat the Magic 107-102 in overtime. The day after that game, an MRI revealed Chauncey Billups was lost for the season with a ruptured Achilles tendon, and Kenyon Martin, who Billups recruited to join the team, was signed and activated. Billups’ loss has been felt on and off the court, especially late in games, and his absence has correlated with Butler's dramatic drop in production. Butler no longer gets the same open looks on the wing that he got when Billups used to penetrate the paint. Meanwhile, Martin’s addition has stunted the growth of Jordan, who simply hasn’t been the same with Martin playing critical minutes down the stretch in Jordan's place. If the Clippers can’t find a way to get Butler and Jordan to return to their old form when the team started 19-9, the current free fall they are on will get worse before it gets better.

What to watch: Clippers-Kings

March, 1, 2012
3/01/12
12:35
PM PT
Clippers (20-12) vs. Sacramento Kings (12-22) at Power Balance Pavilion, 7 p.m. PT

Five storylines to track:

1. “Winning time”: That’s what Chris Paul calls the fourth quarter. The Clippers’ leader and point guard prides himself on closing out games in the final period, which makes the team’s last three losses especially hard for him to swallow. The Clippers have lost three of their last four games and in each one they had the lead in the fourth quarter and failed to pull out a win. Paul deserves some blame -- costly turnover against the San Antonio Spurs and inability to score late against the Golden State Warriors hurt -- but against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday, the blame fell on the entire team. Even before the loss to Minnesota the Clippers said the biggest area of concern for the team in the second half of the season was shoring up their defense and it's apparent that is still a work in progress after letting Minnesota score 36 points in the fourth quarter on 78.6% shooting.

2. Third wheel: If the Clippers are to be serious contenders in the Western Conference down the stretch and into the postseason they will need to find a dependable third scorer outside of Paul and Blake Griffin in the starting lineup. In the Clippers’ last two games, Griffin and Paul have scored 120 points on 61% shooting while the rest of the team has only scored 80 points on 35% shooting. They’re basically getting nothing but bad shots from every other player not named Chris or Blake. The biggest problem for the Clippers outside of the loss of Chauncey Billups for the season last month has been the steady decline of Caron Butler’s numbers recently. Butler scored 11 or more points in 22 of his first 25 games but has scored less than 11 in three of his last four games, including a 2-point performance on Tuesday, making only one of his 10 attempts.

3. No benchmark: One of the Clippers’ most glaring weaknesses this season has been their bench. That is largely why Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro refuses to put Mo Williams into the starting lineup even though he’s been the team’s third best scorer for much of the season. Williams is basically the only player on the Clippers’ bench that can score consistently. Williams is averaging 13.3 points and 3.4 assists this season, the next most productive player on the Clippers bench is recently signed forward Kenyon Martin who is averaging 4.5 points and 4.0 rebounds. This season, the Clippers bench has scored a total of 706 points, with Williams accounting for 52.9% of that production. No game better highlighted the Clippers' lack of depth more than the Minnesota loss when the Timberwolves’ bench outscored the Clippers’ reserves 72-11.

4. Road warriors: Thursday night begins a brutal month and brutal second half to the season the season for the Clippers. They will play 20 games in 31 days in March and open the month with six road games in nine days. The Clippers have played well on the road this season, winning 7 of their last 10 games away from home and winning five of those games by coming back from double-digit deficits. It’s an impressive run considering the Clippers have never finished above .500 on the road in franchise history but the team’s stretch of road games in March and in April where they play nine of 14 games on the road will likely make or break their season. “It is a tough schedule but we need everyone to be ready,” Del Negro said. “The games are going to come at us quick and we’re going to have to handle the schedule the best as possible.”

5. Homecoming: When the Sacramento Kings announced they would be staying in Sacramento after tentatively agreeing with the city to build a new arena, no one was happier than Del Negro. He was drafted by the Kings in 1988 and played in the first ever game at the old Arco Arena in Sacramento as a rookie. “Sacramento has always had great fans,” Del Negro said. “That was a new building years ago and now it’s an old building obviously but they’ve been trying to get the arena situation figured out over there for a while but Sacramento was a good city when I was there years ago.” As much as Del Negro might have fond memories of the building, it hasn’t been the easiest place to play for the Clippers, who have lost seven of eight and 23 of 26 in Sacramento heading into tonight's game.

Tough road ahead for the Clippers

February, 28, 2012
2/28/12
12:42
AM PT
The first half of the regular season went about as well as could be expected for the new-look Los Angeles Clippers. They lost some games they should have won, they won some games they should have lost and looked far better than any team in franchise history. Then again, we are talking about a franchise that has only made the postseason four times in the past 35 years. In fact they have already won more games so far this season than they have in eight previous complete seasons.

[+] EnlargeChris Paul, Blake Griffin
Ezra Shaw/Getty ImagesChris Paul made all the difference for the Clippers in the first half of the NBA season. How far can his leadership take Blake Griffin & Co.?
The real test, however, for the Clippers will come during the second half of the season, when they will be tested with the most grueling stretch of games that any player or coach on the team said they have ever been a part of. Here are eight storylines to track as the Clippers head into the stretch run of their season.

1. March on

The Clippers' season will be shaped, for better or for worse, during the month of March when the team will play 20 games in 31 days, including six road games in nine days to start the month. “Beast,” said Clippers guard Chris Paul when asked about the month. “But we knew that when the season started.”

No team played fewer games or traveled less to start the season than the Clippers. From Dec. 29 to Feb. 3, they only had to leave Staples Center four times. During that stretch players and coaches smiled and said the schedule would soon even up and catch up with them and it certainly will now as the Clippers start to make a push for playoff seeding.

“It’s important when you’re a young team to try to get home court, especially having so many guys on our team that have never played in the playoffs,” Paul said. “It would definitely be a huge advantage for us. I was telling all the guys in the locker room, all the games are over; teams are going to start jockeying for position. Guys are not going to be sitting out and resting anymore.”

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'Beat L.A.!' not just a Lakers chant

February, 21, 2012
2/21/12
7:52
PM PT
PLAYA VISTA, Calif. – “Beat L.A.!”

Chris Paul had heard the chant several times last year when the New Orleans Hornets played the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round of the playoffs. He grew up hearing the chant whenever he would watch the Lakers play on the road and he no doubt thought he might hear the chant during the two minutes or so he was supposedly on the Lakers.

Paul, however, has started to hear the chant every time the Clippers are on the road and it is one of the many signs he says he thinks the perception of the Clippers is beginning to change.

“I’m starting to hear that a lot,” Paul said. “It’s funny because our New Orleans fans used to chant that all the time against the Lakers. It makes the game that much more exciting. It's good.”

This season the Clippers are the biggest draw in the NBA on the road, averaging 19,441, putting them ahead of the Los Angeles Lakers (19,126), Miami Heat (18,973) and Boston Celtics (18,076).

“That’s how it’s going to be,” Clippers guard Randy Foye said. “Every game this season, and this is something new for me, is sold out and fans are there cheering an hour or so before the game. That’s great, that’s something this team hasn’t had and something this city has never seen from this team.”

Foye has even started seeing a change in the way opposing teams at home act when they play the Clippers; perhaps feeding off the energy of the sold our crowd.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Blake Griffin
PTS AST STL MIN
22.5 5.1 0.9 35.3
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsD. Jordan 14.4
AssistsC. Paul 10.0
StealsC. Paul 1.8
BlocksD. Jordan 2.3