A pair of Western Conference rivals will meet for the first of three games in a four-week stretch when the Los Angeles Clippers hosts the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday.
Each team will look to end some erratic play, with the Clippers having lost consecutive home games and the Warriors losing four of their last seven, even after a 135-126 home victory against the Washington Wizards on Monday in the first game of a back-to-back.
Andrew Wiggins scored 29 points for Golden State after he was a game-time decision because of a sprained right ankle. Klay Thompson added 27 points, while Kevon Looney had 13 points and 13 rebounds.
The Warriors also will try to resolve their issues on the road. Golden State is just 7-21 away from the Bay Area this season, the lowest number of road victories among any current playoff or play-in eligible teams in the NBA.
On Monday, Golden State improved to 2-2 without star Stephen Curry, who is out indefinitely with a left leg injury that includes ligament damage. Curry will be re-evaluated next week when the Warriors return from the All-Star break, but his return date to the court remains an uncertainty.
The Warriors also are awaiting the return of defensive standout Gary Payton II, who was acquired from the Portland Trail Blazers in a four-team deal last week, but failed his physical because of an existing abdominal injury. Golden State agreed to the trade anyway, even though they won’t get the use of Payton for at least a month.
“Defense has obviously been a challenge for us all year,” Curry told reporters Monday when asked about Payton, who helped the Warriors to the title last season before signing with the Trail Blazers in free agency last summer. “Our numbers, especially on the road, tell the story there.
“(Payton) can plug a lot of holes for us. I know we’ll have to wait a little longer than everybody expected, but that’s the optimism if we can get (there). ... That’s why the trade was made. That’s what we’re holding out hope for.”
As much as the Clippers would like to put an end to their current two-game losing skid at home, they still plan to prioritize their own player health over a full-steam-ahead approach. Since returning from a long road trip last week, the strategy has been to play it safe with their stars through the All-Star break.
Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue suggested limited minutes were ahead for Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, with the plan going as far as to let Leonard sit for Friday’s 119-106 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on load management.
George and teammate Marcus Morris Sr. presented an idea to help keep the roster fresh for the stretch drive: Bring aboard Russell Westbrook if he becomes available through a buyout following a trade to the Utah Jazz.
“I just think we, in particular, we have enough shooting to surround Russ where Russ can be Russ,” George said. “I think the floor would be open for him, spacing would be there for him.
“I’m a big believer and a fan of what Russ’ work is, having one of my best seasons in my career alongside of him (at Oklahoma City). I’ve seen what he can do night in and night out and he still has a lot of game in him.”
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