Paul, Nowitzki uncertain for Mavs-Clippers matchup (Dec 23, 2016)

BY AP • December 23, 2016

LOS ANGELES -- After winning a high-profile matchup against the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday night, the Los Angeles Clippers must regain their focus to face the struggling Dallas Mavericks on Friday at Staples Center.

"It's going to be tough," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. "You look at the schedule before the year and you see the Dallas game sitting there after playing the last two and then you've got Christmas, and then you say, 'Man, this is going to be a hard game because they're here.' I saw a couple of them at the game tonight.

"They'll be rested and ready. The only silver lining is its back-to-back without travel."

Against the Spurs, the Clippers' reserves played the entire fourth and sparked a 106-101 win. Point guard Chris Paul scored a team-high 19 points, but he tweaked his left hamstring in the third quarter and was unable to return. His availability for the Friday game was unknown.

Despite Paul's absence, the Clippers' bench came through in a big way. Marreese Speights had 14 points, seven rebounds and five assists, and Raymond Felton added 13 points, and Jamal Crawford chipped in 11 points for Los Angeles (22-8).

"We have so many options off the bench, obviously (more) than in the past," Crawford said. "In the past, it's kind of been me attacking off the bench, but this year it's different. We attack as a unit and see who has it going and go from there."

The Mavericks (8-21) are in the midst of a four-game trip, and they are 2-13 on the road. In their last outing Wednesday, the Mavericks almost blew a 24-point lead before hanging on for a 96-95 win over the Trail Blazers at Portland.

Former Blazer Wesley Matthews forced Portland's Damian Lillard into a contested jumper that Lillard missed at the end of the game, allowing Dallas to prevail.

Harrison Barnes led Dallas with 28 points, while Deron Williams contributed 23 points, five rebounds and five assists for the Mavericks. Dallas earned its first road win since Nov. 8, when it beat the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples.

Injuries have taken a toll on the Mavericks. However, Dallas could get a boost with the return of forward Dirk Nowitzki, who hasn't played since Nov. 25 due to a right Achilles tendon strain. Nowitzki, who has played in only five games this season, worked out Thursday at USC, according to the Dallas Morning News.

Coach Rick Carlisle wouldn't rule out a possible return for Nowitzki against the Clippers.

"Signs are good, but we're going to be cautious with him," Carlisle said.

Dallas guard J.J. Barea (Achilles soreness) is listed as questionable for Friday's game, according to the Morning News. Barea played only nine minutes against the Trail Blazers before leaving the game.

It was only the second game Barea appeared since missing 17 games with a left calf strain. Barea scored 11 points Monday in the Mavericks' loss to the Denver Nuggets.

Dallas will be without center Andrew Bogut (knee). Bogut, who has missed the last nine games, isn't expected back until the end of the month at the earliest.

The Clippers captured the past three contests between the two teams, including a 124-104 romp at Dallas on Nov. 23.



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