One-time Los Angeles Clippers stalwarts Elton Brand and Chris Kaman return to Staples Center with the Dallas Mavericks to face their former team in a nationally televised (ESPN, 10:30pm) Western Conference clash.
Kaman was part of the transaction that transformed the Clippers from NBA laughing stock to legitimate franchise when he, Eric Gordon and Al-Farouq Aminu were traded to New Orleans for Chris Paul. With Paul, the league’s best floor general, running the show, the Clippers immediately became a force to be reckoned with. This season, they boast one of the league’s deepest rosters, bench scoring, one of the NBA’s most improved players (Deandre Jordan) and a heady mix of physical strength, veteran savvy and athleticism. The Clippers lead the Pacific division with an 11-6 record and have already recorded quality wins over the Lakers, the Spurs (twice) and the Miami Heat. They have won their last three games and have emerged victorious in seven of their last 10 matches at home. The Mavs continue to tread water without injured franchise star Dirk Nowitzki. They stand at 8-9 but have won just two of their eight road games to date and have lost two successive match-ups on the road. Without Nowitzki, OJ Mayo has shouldered the scoring burden, averaging 20.2 points and 2.9 threes per game. Last time out, Mayo poured in a season-high 27 points and shot six-from-nine from beyond the arc as Dallas comfortably beat the Detroit Pistons. Brand added 17 points and 12 rebounds off the bench in the win. What to expect tonight:
CP3 will score
Paul likes playing against the Mavs, averaging 21.8 points per game when he plays Mark Cuban’s men, his third-highest mark versus any opponent.
Lots of fouls, lots of free throws
The Clips allow 26.1 free throws per game while the Mavs commit a league-high 27.9 fouls per game.
Return of the Blake Show
Griffin had his best game of the season on Monday night as the Clippers came from 10 points down to beat the Utah Jazz. Griffin’s 30-point, 11 rebound effort featured a memorable fade-away jumpshot in addition to high percentage shots close to the basket. Will that performance act as a turning point in Griffin’s season?
No hugs for Lamar
While Brand and Kaman can be proud of their stints in a Clippers uniform, the same cannot be said for current Clipper and former Mav Lamar Odom and his truncated tenure in Dallas. So unpopular was Odom, his team-mates cut him out of last season’s play-off share. The usual pre-game hugs may be a little frosty tonight.
Ball pressure and steals
The Clippers lead the league in in forced turnovers (18.4) per game while the Mavs have point guard issues. Darren Collison was recently removed from the starting line-up and his replacement Derek Fisher could struggle against the wily Paul and tenacious D of Eric Bledsoe.
PredictionThe Mavs are well-rested but are dire on the road. Expect the Clippers to assert their superiority in the fourth quarter. Scoreline: Clippers 102 Mavericks 95Where To Watch Online: Dallas Mavericks at Los Angeles Clippers Follow Lee on Twitter @sportsbloke_UK689221