The Los Angeles Clippers faltered against two of the Western Conference's elite teams while splitting four games last week, but facing one of the conference's worst squads could help them bounce back.
The Clippers visit the Golden State Warriors on Monday looking to avoid their first consecutive losses since late December.
Los Angeles (19-10) has the West's third-best record, but came up short against two fellow contenders last week while going 2-2 overall. After falling 96-92 at Dallas last Monday, the Clippers were lamenting a missed opportunity in a 103-100 overtime loss to San Antonio on Saturday.
Chris Paul scored 17 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter but threw a pass right to the Spurs' Gary Neal with 6.9 seconds in regulation that led to the tying 3-pointer.
"Man, that was probably the worst play I've been a part of since I've been in the NBA," Paul said. "We obviously gave that game away right there ... We've got to win games like that."
The loss took the luster off Blake Griffin's 22 points and 20 rebounds, his first career 20-20-game. Griffin, however, only had two points in the fourth quarter, and he's totaled four in the final period of his last three contests.
After taking the blame for Saturday's loss, Paul - whose 23.0-point average at Golden State is his highest in any visiting arena - will try to help the Clippers avoid their first back-to-back losses since Dec. 28-30.
Despite his critical turnover, he's come up big in the fourth quarter of the team's last two games, scoring all 13 of his points in the final period of a 74-71 win at Portland on Thursday. However, Paul is 1 for 14 in the first three quarters of those two contests.
The Warriors (11-17) know a lot about close losses. They have dropped three straight, including a 104-103 defeat at Memphis on Saturday.
Golden State allowed a go-ahead putback with 5.6 seconds left and David Lee was called for an offensive foul with less than a second left, wasting a combined 69 points from Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis.
"It's the little things that either win or lose ball games as we continue to find out," coach Mark Jackson said. "Once again we were in a position to win the ball game and we didn't because of a defensive rebound. That's the disappointing part about it."
Of their last eight losses, five have been decided by three points or fewer and another in overtime.
The Warriors were outrebounded 45-31 Saturday and outscored 44-22 in the paint - not good signs as they prepare to face Griffin and the Clippers' frontcourt. Golden State's minus-4.46 rebounding differential is among the league's worst, while the Clippers' plus-3.14 margin is one of the NBA's best.
Griffin has averaged 25.8 points and 12.5 boards his last four games against the Warriors. He had 22 and seven in Los Angeles' 105-86 win in Oakland during Paul's Clipper debut Dec. 25.
Curry and Ellis were held to 19 points on 8 of 31 shooting - also turning it over nine times - in that loss.
Despite their 3-8 road record and general issues closing out games, the Warriors have won four of their last six at Oracle Arena.
"Certainly our record is not as good as we want it to be," Lee said. "The positive is we are not far off."
- Los Angeles Clippers
- Chris Paul
- Golden State
- Blake Griffin