Posted March 09, 2013 on AP on Fox
The Los Angeles Clippers can usually count on a huge edge in bench points behind Jamal Crawford, who helped key a victory over the Detroit Pistons earlier this season. The host Clippers are hopeful that Crawford will return from a sore ankle Sunday night when they look to defeat the Pistons for the fourth straight time. Los Angeles (44-20) is averaging 40.8 points off the bench, among the best in the league, but sorely missed Crawford and his average of 17.2 points that leads all NBA reserves in a 107-92 loss at Denver on Thursday. Crawford injured his left ankle in a 117-101 victory over Milwaukee on Wednesday. The Clippers opted to rest him and managed a 36-35 edge in bench points Thursday, with backup forward Matt Barnes scoring 19. "We have plenty of capable guys on this team, so when one guy goes down someone else has to step up," Barnes told the Clippers' official website. "We just ran out of gas tonight." Crawford and Blake Griffin each scored 15 in an 88-76 victory at Detroit (23-41) on Dec. 17. Barnes added 10 as the Clippers finished with a 37-21 cushion in points from reserves. The Los Angeles bench has more depth now with former Pistons guard Chauncey Billups back in the starting lineup after missing the first matchup. Willie Green had been starting in his place. This marks the third meeting at point guard between the Pistons' Brandon Knight and Clippers star Chris Paul. Knight averaged 11.0 points and 26.7 percent shooting in the first two, but he's averaged 20.0 points in five games since missing three with a hyperextended knee. Detroit is beginning a four-game trip against Western Conference opponents. It's lost 30 of 31 on the road versus the West, including 13 straight. Brian Hill has filled in as the Pistons' coach for the last two games with Lawrence Frank away from the team due a personal matter. It's unclear when Frank will return. The Pistons have dropped four straight, falling 102-99 at home to Dallas on Friday. Knight scored 21 and Jason Maxiell and Greg Monroe posted double-doubles. Rookie Khris Middleton was another bright spot with a season-high 14 points. "None of us are going to give up no matter how the game is going," Middleton said. "They went on a nice little run with 3s, and we answered right back." The Clippers have allowed 24 3-pointers over their last two games, with Denver shooting 47.8 percent from beyond the arc Thursday. Los Angeles is among the worst teams in the NBA in that department, allowing teams to shoot 37.2 percent. "Yeah, our 3-point defense has been terrible and part of it tonight, we know how many points they score in transition and in the paint," Paul said. The Pistons may not be in position to take advantage, shooting 33.0 percent on 3s during their slide. Griffin matched a career low with two rebounds against the Nuggets. He's averaging 12.5 in four games against Detroit. The Clippers have won six straight over East foes.
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