The banged-up New Orleans Hornets are struggling through their
worst stretch of a once-promising season. Perhaps a matchup with
the Los Angeles Clippers can give their confidence a boost.
In danger of losing an eighth straight road game, the Hornets
look to extend a 12-game winning streak against the lowly Los
Angeles Clippers on Monday night.
New Orleans (32-35) is 7-14 since losing Chris Paul to a knee
injury. The three-time All Star may be a week away from returning,
but it’s too late for the Hornets to make a playoff push.
Trailing eighth-place Portland by 7 1/2 games in the Western
Conference, New Orleans has virtually taken itself out of the
postseason race with its poor play. A loss to Los Angeles (25-42)
would give the Hornets eight straight road defeats for the first
time since the 2004-05 season.
New Orleans has lost nine of 11 overall, allowing 108.9 points
per game. The Hornets, though, have been much tougher defensively
against the Clippers, surrendering an average of 90.2 points during
their winning streak against them.
The Clippers have lost seven straight overall entering their
final contest with the Hornets this season.
Still, even this might be a matchup too tough for an
injury-riddled New Orleans team to overcome. The Hornets have
dressed the league minimum eight players the past two games,
including a 120-106 loss to Phoenix on Sunday night.
“We just have to be realistic about our situation,” New Orleans
forward David West said. “We’ve just got to be professionals at a
time like this, just keep playing and try to keep who we have left
healthy and just go out and compete.”
Peja Stojakovic (abdomen) has missed three straight games and
will miss at least another 10 days, and James Posey has been out
the past two games due to flulike symptoms. Posey’s status is
Aside from their top draft picks from the past two years, Los
Angeles has been relatively healthy. Blake Griffin, the top overall
pick in last year’s draft, has missed the entire season due to a
fractured knee and 2008 No. 1 pick Eric Gordon has missed five
straight games due to a sore right leg.
Gordon, averaging 17.2 points, is day to day.
A 118-88 loss to San Antonio on Saturday night ensured the
Clippers of a third straight losing season. Los Angeles will finish
below .500 for the 16th time in 17 years, and it’s hardly inspiring
players to put forth their best effort down the stretch.
The Clippers have been outscored by an average of 20.0 points
during their skid.
“Whether they think the season is done, whether they’re going
for points, whatever’s going on with them has to change, because
we’re not done,” coach Kim Hughes said. “It’s still a teaching
process. I don’t intend to let it happen that we’re going to play
like that. If it’s going to play like that, then minutes will have
to be adjusted. It’s just not fair.”
Los Angeles has given up at least 60 points or more in the paint
in two straight games – well above its season average of 42.9.
“We’re not coming to the gym with the right mentality and it’s
starting to show,” Los Angeles guard Baron Davis said.