Clippers (26-20) vs. New Orleans Hornets (11-35) at New Orleans Arena, 5 p.m. PT
Five storylines to track:
1. Coming home: When Chris Paul was traded from the Hornets to the Clippers for Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman, Al-Farouq Aminu and a first-round draft pick more than three months ago, the first game Paul circled on the schedule was his first trip back to New Orleans. It will be an emotional night for Paul, who is hosting 150 kids and parents from his CP3 Afterschool Zone at the game, and will be seeing many of his old teammates and friends for the first time since being traded. At his introductory news conference in Los Angeles, he mentioned his former teammates and the children from the program before talking about his new team. “Going to New Orleans is going to be tough,” Paul said. “It will be cool because I have a lot of family and friends there but it will be a little odd. I had to do it at some point.”
2. Scoring slump: For the eighth straight game, the Clippers failed to score 100 points. For the second straight game, they allowed a team to score more than 100 points. In other words, this is a team that can’t score and can’t defend right now, which is never a good combination. The Clippers have hit the century mark twice in their last 13 games, and their record in their last 18 games is 7-11. This season, the Clippers are 16-3 when scoring more than 100 points and 10-16 when scoring less than 100. Reaching the century mark on the road is even more critical for the Clippers, as they are 9-1 when they score at least 100 and 2-10 when they don’t.
3. Know your role: The Clippers’ inability to develop a consistent rotation was again on display against the Thunder. Randy Foye, who had been the Clippers' starting shooting guard for 28 games after Chauncey Billups was lost for the season last month, was benched in favor of newly acquired swingman Nick Young against Indiana. Foye was the only player on the Clippers' active roster who did not play in the game. Well, 24 hours later, he was back in the starting lineup and scored 23 points in 35 minutes. Judging by the Clippers’ recent rotation inconsistencies, it’s entirely possible he might not see the floor against New Orleans on Thursday night.
4. Butler out: Foye started against Oklahoma City because Caron Butler was a healthy scratch for the game, but he'll likely be back in the starting lineup against the Hornets. Sitting Butler might not just have been for his health during the team's last back-to-back-to-back of the season. He has been in a slump after being one of the key players for the Clippers at the start of the season. Through the first 25 games of the season, the Clippers were 17-8 and Butler was averaging 15.3 points while shooting 44 percent from the field and 38.6 percent from three-point range. In his last 18 games, however, the Clippers are 8-10 and Butler is averaging 8.1 points, and shooting 31.1 percent from the field and 26.3 percent from behind the arc.
5. Bench problems: One of the biggest weaknesses for the Clippers this season, despite their acquisitions of Young and Kenyon Martin, has been their bench. After being outscored 50-23 in Indiana, they were outscored 37-24 in Oklahoma City. The only player on the bench who scored more than four points in either game was Mo Williams, who averaged 11.5 points in both. Williams is averaging 13.8 points and 2.0 assists this season and has accounted for more than 51 percent of the Clippers’ bench production. Martin and Reggie Evans are usually good for a couple of put-backs and Eric Bledsoe usually provides one fast-break layup, but there has been no consistent production from the Clippers’ bench outside of Williams this season.