Clippers-Mavericks Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated April 01, 2012
A lengthy stay at home appeared to provide just what the Los Angeles Clippers needed to end their struggles on the court and put aside any distractions off it. The Clippers, though, will be on the road for much of the rest of the season starting Monday night against the Dallas Mavericks, winners of 10 in a row at home in the series. Los Angeles entered its five-game homestand after getting swept during a three-games-in-three-days road stretch and having lost 12 of 19 overall following a 19-9 start. That miserable trip led to questions about coach Vinny Del Negro's job security, but he received a vote of confidence from owner Donald Sterling during the stay at the Staples Center. The franchise's first five-game win streak since November 2006 certainly helped, as Los Angeles (31-21) finished its perfect homestand by beating Utah 105-96 on Saturday. "It ain't a huge milestone," said guard Chris Paul, who had a team-high 26 points. "You've got to strive for more than that. Every win now is crucial. We got to expect to win. The mindset is changing, and that's a good thing." Blake Griffin had 24 points, his sixth straight game with at least 20. He'll try to continue that streak while helping his team end its struggles against the Mavericks (30-23). The Clippers - who play nine of their final 14 away from Staples Center - are on the verge of their second four-game road losing streak, and the prospects of avoiding that don't appear promising. Los Angeles has dropped 17 of 19 to Dallas and hasn't won at the American Airlines Center since April 19, 2006, when the 23-year-old Griffin was a junior in high school. Dallas enters this matchup having split its last six games but with six wins in its last seven at home. The Mavericks bounced back from a 106-85 drubbing in Miami on Thursday by rallying for a 100-98 victory at Orlando on Friday. They trailed by 15 in the third quarter but completed their comeback when Dirk Nowitzki hit a 15-foot jumper with 5.9 seconds left. Nowitzki had 28 points to lead five players in double figures while giving his team only its second win when trailing to start the final period. "We showed a lot of fortitude, a lot of grit and lot of togetherness," coach Rick Carlisle said. "We have lofty goals, but we've got 13 games to go and we've got a lot of improvement left." Dallas will continue that work while attempting to close its gap on Los Angeles in the standings. The fifth-place Mavericks are 1 1/2 games behind the fourth-place Clippers, who are seeking to catching the rival Lakers in the Pacific Division. They can help themselves in that quest with their first six-game win streak since March 18-31, 1992, a run that began with a 117-86 victory in Dallas. Los Angeles earned its most recent victory in the series Jan. 18 when the now-injured Chauncey Billups hit a last-second 3-pointer to secure a 91-89 win. Nowitzki scored 11 of his team-best 22 points over the final six-plus minutes to lead his team to a 96-92 victory in Dallas on Feb. 13. Caron Butler had a season-high 23 for the Clippers and Griffin added 20 but missed seven of nine free throws.
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