Nets-Clippers Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated March 22, 2013
Following one of their worst defensive games of the season, the Los Angeles Clippers put together perhaps their best performance in their last contest. They may face a stiffer challenge trying to contain the Brooklyn Nets, who haven't had any trouble scoring so far on their road trip. The Pacific Division-leading Clippers will try to claim back-to-back victories for the first time this month and beat the Nets for the eighth time in nine home games on Saturday night. After matching a season high for points given up in regulation in a 116-101 loss at Sacramento on Tuesday, Los Angeles (47-22) tightened things up in a big way in a 101-72 victory over Philadelphia on Wednesday. The Clippers allowed their lowest point total of the season, finished with 13 steals and forced 19 turnovers that led to 24 points in the team's fourth win in five home games. "You got to stay calm and fight our way back in and we did that,'' forward Blake Griffin said. "We had a big letdown (against the Kings) so to have a bounceback like this in a back-to-back, it's a good win.'' Now Los Angeles will have to find a way to contain a Brooklyn team that has averaged 116.0 points on 52.3 percent shooting in its two victories to kick off an eight-game trip. The Nets (40-28) outscored Dallas 91-64 after the first quarter Wednesday en route to a 113-96 win. Brooklyn, which is right on New York's heels for the Atlantic Division lead, clinched a playoff berth with Denver's win over the 76ers on Thursday. The Nets have been playing well on the road, winning seven of nine to move within two victories of the single-season franchise record of 20. Deron Williams and Brook Lopez combined for 69 points on 28-of-47 shooting on Wednesday and the Nets shot better than 50.0 percent for the third time in four games. "When you're feeling good and feel like you can't miss, it's a good feeling,'' said Williams, who scored 31 in each of the first two games of the trip. Williams and the Nets' backcourt may catch a break Saturday. Eric Bledsoe (calf) has missed the Clippers' last five games while Chauncey Billups (hamstring) sat out Wednesday's win, and both are questionable to return against Brooklyn. Lopez finished with a season-high 38 points on 15-of-22 shooting on Wednesday and had a team-high 26 in an 86-76 home win over the Clippers on Nov. 23. He's averaged 24.7 points over his last three games in this series. Brooklyn stifled the high-scoring Clippers in the first meeting, holding them to 40.3 percent shooting - including 4 of 17 from 3-point range - and 29 points in the second half. The Nets' defense has also been a key on the road lately, as they've allowed just 88.4 points over their last five away from Brooklyn. Chris Paul has scored just 12.2 per game in his last five against Brooklyn, but Griffin has averaged 22.0 points and 12.0 rebounds in his last four in this series. Griffin has 23 and 14 in the Nets' last visit on Jan. 16, 2012, a 101-91 Los Angeles win that marked its seventh in the last eight meetings at Staples. Despite its struggles in Los Angeles, Brooklyn has won five of the last six meetings overall.
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