The Los Angeles Clippers' inability to beat the last-place New Orleans Hornets on a recent road trip is perhaps one small reason why coach Vinny Del Negro's job is reportedly in jeopardy.
After a convincing win in their return home, the Clippers will try to aid their embattled coach and their playoff hopes with a rare victory over the Hornets on Monday night.
Del Negro met with general manager Neil Olshey following an 0-3 road trip that was capped by a 97-90 defeat to New Orleans on Thursday. Los Angeles (27-21) is 8-12 over its last 20 but remains percentage points ahead of Dallas for fourth place in the Western Conference.
"All the speculation, all the sources, all that stuff, I don't spend a lot of time on that. I don't have time for that," Del Negro said. "It's aggravating, but that's part of the job. That's part of the deal. We haven't been playing well, and I'm the head coach. So that responsibility goes everywhere. ... We need to play better."
The Clippers, though, have won three straight at Staples Center after beating fellow playoff contender Memphis 101-85 on Saturday. Blake Griffin and Chris Paul each recorded double-doubles and three other players scored in double figures as Los Angeles shot 50 percent.
"It was very important to get a win. You almost forget what it feels like after you lose like we've been losing," Paul said. "Our defense had been horrendous for a few games, just giving up everything - 3s, layups, free throws - but today we put it all together.
"Everybody was really together when we came out there. We have a five-game homestand now, and we need every win we can possibly get right now."
Getting wins over New Orleans (12-36) has proved quite difficult in recent seasons. The Clippers have lost in 16 of the past 17 matchups and Paul's 16 points and nine assists against his former team didn't make a difference last week.
Los Angeles shot 38.9 percent in that game while New Orleans converted at a season-best 57.6. Former Clipper Chris Kaman paced the Hornets with 20 points and 10 rebounds.
New Orleans couldn't build on that victory Saturday, though, as it was denied only its third win streak with an 89-86 loss to San Antonio.
Jarrett Jack had 27 points but Kaman was out with an illness, an absence that helped the Spurs outscore the Hornets 52-42 in the paint. Kaman's status is unknown for his first visit to his former team.
Trevor Ariza was also out with an injured ankle and Jason Smith was serving the first of a two-game suspension for a flagrant foul on Griffin during Thursday's win. Even with those absences, the Hornets had an 86-85 lead with 1:20 remaining before missing their final three shots.
"We didn't have one guy blink," coach Monty Williams said. "They went out and played hard and just came up short. I'm kicking myself because I couldn't put us in position to win at the end.'"
New Orleans has won seven of its past eight road games against the Clippers but lost 99-95 during its most recent visit Nov. 22, 2010. Griffin had 24 points and 13 rebounds during that victory, his third consecutive double-double against the Hornets.