Clippers-Mavericks Preview

A lengthy stay at home appeared to provide just what the Los

Angeles Clippers needed to end their struggles on the court and put

aside any distractions off it.

The Clippers, though, will be on the road for much of the rest

of the season starting Monday night against the Dallas Mavericks,

winners of 10 in a row at home in the series.

Los Angeles entered its five-game homestand after getting swept

during a three-games-in-three-days road stretch and having lost 12

of 19 overall following a 19-9 start. That miserable trip led to

questions about coach Vinny Del Negro’s job security, but he

received a vote of confidence from owner Donald Sterling during the

stay at the Staples Center.

The franchise’s first five-game win streak since November 2006

certainly helped, as Los Angeles (31-21) finished its perfect

homestand by beating Utah 105-96 on Saturday.

“It ain’t a huge milestone,” said guard Chris Paul, who had a

team-high 26 points. “You’ve got to strive for more than that.

Every win now is crucial. We got to expect to win. The mindset is

changing, and that’s a good thing.”

Blake Griffin had 24 points, his sixth straight game with at

least 20. He’ll try to continue that streak while helping his team

end its struggles against the Mavericks (30-23).

The Clippers – who play nine of their final 14 away from Staples

Center – are on the verge of their second four-game road losing

streak, and the prospects of avoiding that don’t appear promising.

Los Angeles has dropped 17 of 19 to Dallas and hasn’t won at the

American Airlines Center since April 19, 2006, when the 23-year-old

Griffin was a junior in high school.

Dallas enters this matchup having split its last six games but

with six wins in its last seven at home. The Mavericks bounced back

from a 106-85 drubbing in Miami on Thursday by rallying for a

100-98 victory at Orlando on Friday.

They trailed by 15 in the third quarter but completed their

comeback when Dirk Nowitzki hit a 15-foot jumper with 5.9 seconds

left. Nowitzki had 28 points to lead five players in double figures

while giving his team only its second win when trailing to start

the final period.

“We showed a lot of fortitude, a lot of grit and lot of

togetherness,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “We have lofty goals, but

we’ve got 13 games to go and we’ve got a lot of improvement

left.”

Dallas will continue that work while attempting to close its gap

on Los Angeles in the standings. The fifth-place Mavericks are 1

1/2 games behind the fourth-place Clippers, who are seeking to

catching the rival Lakers in the Pacific Division.

They can help themselves in that quest with their first six-game

win streak since March 18-31, 1992, a run that began with a 117-86

victory in Dallas.

Los Angeles earned its most recent victory in the series Jan. 18

when the now-injured Chauncey Billups hit a last-second 3-pointer

to secure a 91-89 win.

Nowitzki scored 11 of his team-best 22 points over the final

six-plus minutes to lead his team to a 96-92 victory in Dallas on

Feb. 13. Caron Butler had a season-high 23 for the Clippers and

Griffin added 20 but missed seven of nine free throws.