The Los Angeles Clippers have had consecutive days off for the first time in nearly a month, which has allowed for what feels like an unusual amount of practice.
That could be bad news on Saturday night for the visiting Philadelphia 76ers, who have had reality settle in at the tail end of a seven-game road trip.
The Clippers (22-11) are playing their fourth game on a nine-game homestand after going 10-1 at Staples Center in December. It was part of a busy month that saw them play at least every other day after having Dec. 4-5 off.
They started 2015 with consecutive days off after Wednesday’s 99-78 win over New York, but J.J. Redick might have preferred to keep on playing. The shooting guard scored 20 points against the Knicks and is averaging 19.0 while shooting 51.1 percent – 50.0 from 3-point range – in his last seven games.
"When he gets it going like that, it’s tough for other teams to stop," Blake Griffin said.
Los Angeles limited the Knicks to 38.1 percent, but Griffin said the team would focus on fine-tuning things on the defensive end with two days leading into the matchup with Philadelphia.
"Transition defense, defending the 3, defending the second and third effort, pick-and-roll, stuff like that," Griffin told the team’s official website.
Any such struggles might not have been as evident against New York, but the Clippers have split their last 12 games while allowing opponents to shoot 47.3 percent – up from 44.8 percent over a 16-5 start. From 3, opponents are at 38.1 percent on the recent stretch after making 33.3 percent during those first 21 games.
Coach Doc Rivers said the limited practice time over the past month has produced deficiencies on both ends of the court.
"I think we’ve slipped in a lot of areas of execution," Rivers said. "So the word would be execution, and you could go defense and offense."
Specifics might not matter much against Philadelphia. The Clippers have won the last five meetings, and the last two played at Staples Center have come by an average of 37.0 points as they’ve limited the 76ers to 75.0 points per game on 31.3 percent shooting.
Griffin scored 26 points in each meeting last season while shooting 71.4 percent. DeAndre Jordan averaged 20.5 rebounds.
Philadelphia (4-27) won its first two games on its current trip but has lost four since by an average of 23.5 points, dropping the league’s worst team to 1-14 against the Western Conference.
Friday’s 112-96 loss in Phoenix wasn’t quite to that level with Luc Mbah a Moute back at center after missing two games with a strained left calf and Michael Carter-Williams breaking from a shooting slump to some extent.
The second-year point guard was 8 of 20 for 17 points after scoring 12 points on 3-of-27 shooting over his previous two games. Tony Wroten scored a game-high 28 points off the bench and is averaging 20.0 over his last four games.
Any individual success has been fruitless as turnovers and 3-point shooting remain massive concerns. Philadelphia is shooting 25.0 percent from long range on the road trip. For the season, the 76ers are at a league-worst 29.5 percent, yet they continue to fire them up at the fourth-highest rate in the East (23.9 per game).
Additionally, they’ve turned the ball over at least 16 times in 14 straight games with their season average of 19.1 easily the highest in the league.
"I got it going offensively, but none of that matters when you don’t get a win," Wroten told the team’s official website. "We were playing so well, and we’d turn the ball over and hurt ourselves, things that we can’t have in order to win."