The star big men square off for the first time this season as Dallas tries to keep up its impressive play Friday night when it hosts the Clippers.
The Mavericks (19-13) are coming off a perfect road trip, winning in Chicago, Minnesota and Washington even as Nowitzki was held below 20 points in each game and shot a combined 34.8 percent. The 11-time All-Star, averaging a team-leading 20.9 points, failed to reach double figures for the first time in 35 games Wednesday, but Dallas beat the Wizards 87-78.
Part of the reason Nowitzki struggled, shooting 3 of 14 from the field for nine points, was that he rolled his ankle early in the contest. However, he remained in the game and will be good to go against the Clippers.
"Well, it was obvious that I wasn't moving well," said Nowitzki, who has missed his last eight 3-point attempts. "I didn't get any elevation on my jumper, but I was an expensive decoy (Wednesday) and I was trying to just spread the floor for the guys."
Griffin has been anything but a decoy lately. He didn't score more than 30 points in a game this season until doing so four times in the last six, including three of the past four as he's averaged 30.3 points.
As good as Griffin has been offensively, the Clippers (22-12) hadn't been doing so well. They lost three of four to close December before opening the New Year with a 112-85 victory over Charlotte on Wednesday, with Griffin scoring 31 on 14-of-20 shooting and grabbing 12 rebounds.
"We also have the utmost confidence in Blake," said Chris Paul, who had 17 points and 14 assists. "He works so hard, and it was great to see it all come together for him (against the Bobcats). That was unreal. They didn't know what to do."
Paul helped the Clippers total a season-high 36 assists on 47 made field goals. Starter Jared Dudley had 20 points with six 3-pointers after a four-game stretch in which he totaled 17 points and was 0 for 5 from beyond the arc.
"You could see what we worked on... at practice with ball movement," coach Doc Rivers said. "It was quick. The ball was flying around the floor, and that makes us really good. It makes it harder to guard Chris and Blake because you can't key on those guys. I think we got away from that a little bit, so it's good that that came back."
The trip to Dallas is the first of games on back-to-back nights for Los Angeles, which plays at San Antonio on Saturday. The Clippers have lost their last two on the road - to Golden State and Portland - by a combined six points.
They've lost 11 of 12 in Dallas, including a 109-102 overtime defeat March 26 in the teams' last meeting. Nowitzki and Paul each scored 33 points, but Griffin was held to 14 as Los Angeles had its three-game win streak over Dallas snapped.
The Mavs have lost their last two home games despite Monta Ellis totaling 44 points. He scored 23 on Wednesday at Washington in what coach Rick Carlisle called the best game Ellis has played with Dallas since signing in the offseason.
Ellis was 9 of 10 at the foul line, and the Mavericks are making 89.6 percent of their free throws during the three-game win streak.
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