Clippers figure to encounter numerous challenges on five-game trip
It was a trip that provoked angst in August, seven months before the Clippers would board their charter flight for the first of five stops.
“As you get the schedule in the summer and you kind of glance over it,” shooting guard J.J. Redick said Sunday, “this trip really stood out.”
Four of five teams the Clippers will play on their 10-day, five-city trip that starts Tuesday in San Antonio are probably headed to the playoffs. Houston has won five of its last six games against the Clippers, including the final three games of an epic comeback in the Western Conference semifinals last spring.
Memphis has four former Clippers — Lance Stephenson, Matt Barnes, Ryan Hollins and Alex Stepheson — who might feel like they have something to prove against the team that cast them aside. The Clippers traded Stephenson last month and Barnes last summer, decided not to re-sign Hollins after the 2013-14 season and declined to re-sign Stepheson for the rest of the season after his second 10-day contract expired last week.
And the Grizzlies might qualify as one of the easier games.
San Antonio and Golden State, which serve as bookends on the trip, will almost surely hold the top two playoff seedings in the West. Oh, and let’s not forget the Spurs and Warriors are a combined 63-0 at home.
“It’s as difficult as you can get,” Redick said, “and we’re still waiting on Blake [Griffin] to get back.”
Griffin will miss his 36th consecutive game Tuesday when the Clippers face the Spurs at the AT&T Center, having not traveled with the team on this trip. The star power forward won’t be back until late this month at the earliest because of a quadriceps injury, a broken hand and a four-game suspension resulting from his punching team assistant equipment manager Matias Testi in January at a Toronto restaurant.
After their game against the Spurs, the Clippers will play Houston on Wednesday, followed by Memphis on Saturday, New Orleans on Sunday and Golden State on March 23. There will be two sets of back-to-back games plus an oddity: two days off before the games against Memphis and Golden State.
“It’s just a little quirk in the schedule,” Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said. “We would have loved for that to have been spaced out, but there’s nothing you can do about it. All good teams, you’ve just got to play well out there.”
The Clippers have excelled on the road, going 20-11, but the start of the trip could be a reminder of past failures. The Clippers’ last losing streak started with back-to-back defeats in San Antonio and Houston in December.
It’s some history they’ll certainly try not to repeat.
Veteran forward Paul Pierce is considered doubtful for the game against the Spurs because of the sore right big toe that has forced him to miss the team’s last two games. . . . Rookie forward Branden Dawson, who was arrested on suspicion of felony spousal abuse Sunday, did not travel with the Clippers on the trip. The team hopes to have more information on whether formal charges will be filed soon.
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