Hawks-Clippers Preview

BY foxsports • March 5, 2016

Blake Griffin is nearing a return, but the Los Angeles Clippers have done just fine without him.

The Clippers may need to overcome Griffin's absence again as they go for a four-game winning streak Saturday night against the visiting Atlanta Hawks.

Griffin has missed 34 games with a torn left quad and a broken hand he sustained when he punched a member of the Clippers' equipment staff in January.

The All-Star power forward is showing signs that a return is near, participating in a pregame warmup Wednesday in Oklahoma City. However, he remained out and watched the Clippers erase a 22-point deficit to beat the Thunder 103-98.

Coach Doc Rivers speculated that Griffin hasn't been cleared by doctors yet.

"That's probably why he's not playing," Rivers told the team's official website. "My guess is that he's healthy, but the hand doctor probably has not cleared him for contact as far as getting hit. That's the only thing. Honestly, watching him (Wednesday), I was thinking that has to be the only reason is they're worried it's not healed properly yet.

"That's the only thing I can come up with."

Griffin is averaging 23.2 points and 8.7 rebounds, but Los Angeles (40-20) hasn't missed him much during a 23-7 stretch in which it has scored 107.7 points per game.

Chris Paul has been vital to that production, averaging 21.8 points and 10.3 assists with Griffin out. He's been even better with 28.0 points and 12.7 assists per game while shooting 55.8 percent from the floor during a three-game winning streak.

Paul, however, had 11 points and missed 10 of 15 from the field at Atlanta on Jan. 27, but Jamal Crawford picked up the slack with 21 points, while DeAndre Jordan added 13 with 19 rebounds.

Crawford is averaging 19.8 points over the last four games, and his 14.0 season mark gives his a chance to become the NBA's first to win the Sixth Man of the Year Award for the third time.

"It's never happened before, so I honestly don't know," Crawford said. "I'm so locked in just trying to get wins. I mean, obviously those types of things come when you're winning."

The Hawks (34-28) have won three of their last four, yielding an average of 80.3 points on 34.6 percent shooting and 21.5 from long range in the victories.

Atlanta dominated the Los Angeles Lakers in every facet Friday, forcing them to shoot just 5 of 27 from 3-point range en route to a 106-77 win and the club's first sweep of the season series since 1973-74.

The Hawks, who shot 28.9 percent from beyond the arc in their previous five games, went 13 of 28 from deep and outscored the Lakers 27-2 on the fast break.

"When you start making 3s and then transitioning quickly, then you're scoring and getting stops, then getting another one on top of it, it can add up quickly," coach Mike Budenholzer said.

Balanced scoring isn't new for Atlanta, which has five players averaging double-digits on the season. That includes reserve Dennis Schroder, who has put up 15.6 points per game over the last eight while connecting on 54.1 percent of his shots.

The guard, however, is averaging 5.8 points in four career meetings with the Clippers after scoring seven in January.

Jeff Teague had 16 points and Paul Millsap had 14 with 12 boards in that meeting as every Hawks starter scored at least 12. Millsap, though, has averaged 18.7 points in the past six matchups with the Clippers.

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