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Road gets tougher for the Clippers
By Robert Gillard III (Sports Writer)
Published January 11, 2012

Chris Paul and the Clippers have had a light schedule so far, but it is about to get a lot tougher.  Photo by Leon Bennett 

Up until this week the Clippers have had it easy.  They’ll face the Heat, Lakers, and Thunder over the next week.

In a season in which many teams have already played games on three consecutive nights (the first time that has happened since 1999), the Clippers just played their first set of back-to-back games over the past couple nights — Tuesday in Portland, then right back at home at Staples Center against Miami on Wednesday.

The Clippers played their first six games of the season over 14 days. By comparison, the Lakers played their first six games over eight days.

The moderate early going has benefited the new-look Clippers, as they entered the week with a 4-2 record. With so many new faces on the team the extra days in between games has afforded them more practice time to gain some cohesion.

That will soon change, though. Starting Saturday against the Lakers, the Clippers play 10 games (two against the Lakers) in 17 days — leaving little time for practice, and even less time for rest.

A condensed season dictates such circumstances. That’s what happens when millionaires bicker with billionaires over a larger piece of the pie.

Aiding the Clippers in their upcoming onslaught of games will be the presence of forward Reggie Evans. The man who Blake Griffin recently called the team’s “defensive gargoyle” finally made his debut last week against the Bucks.

Evans, who certainly was a beast as he averaged a career-high 11.5 rebounds last season, showed what he’s capable of against Milwaukee. He finished the game with 6 rebounds and one block in 18 minutes off the bench.

Evans won’t be mistaken as an offensive machine, that’s not his game. He’s a tenacious, hard-nosed player who will battle the other team for every rebound. His contributions should help a team that entered the week ranked last in rebounding.

Evans can’t do it alone though. Other big men have to improve their numbers for the Clippers to be competitive in the always-tough Western Conference.

Although DeAndre Jordan ranks among the league’s top shot blockers, he averaged only seven rebounds through the first six games. Backup point guard Mo Williams, who is 6’1, entered the week averaging almost as many rebounds (2.2) as backup forward Brian Cook (3.0), who is 6‘9.

Guiding the way through the upcoming games, and all season, will be the steady hand of Chris Paul. He entered the week ranked fourth in assists per game (9.3). His pinpoint passing has certainly created scoring opportunities for his teammates, as evidenced by the team’s .479 field goal percentage, which ranks among the best in the league.

The same can not be said for the Clippers at the charity stripe. They entered the week ranked last in free throw percentage at .659.

Paul has also helped cut down the Clippers’ number of turnovers. At press time they led the league with the fewest turnovers at just 12.5 per game; nearly four fewer than last season’s squad.

Of the nine opponents the Clippers face during their last 10 games of the month, five (Lakers, Mavericks, Nuggets, Thunder and Grizzlies) made the playoffs last season, and four of the nine entered this week with winning records.


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Categories: Basketball

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