Blake Griffin hasn't scored less than 10 points since the calendar flipped to 2013 and the leading scorer for the Los Angeles Clippers will try to get his team back on track Sunday versus the Detroit Pistons.
Griffin is averaging team highs of 18.6 points and 8.7 rebounds for a Clippers squad that has dropped two of three games since winning eight of nine. The mini slump started with a loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, but a subsequent victory over the Milwaukee Bucks settled things.
But Los Angeles, which leads the Pacific Division and is fourth in the West, went back a step with Thursday's 107-92 road defeat at the hands of the sizzling Denver Nuggets. Griffin had 17 points and Chris Paul collected 16 points and 10 assists for L.A.
"They're a good team, they forced the tempo," LA coach Vinny Del Negro said.
The game was even at 49 apiece at halftime, but the Nuggets registered a 36-26 advantage in the third quarter. Denver won the season series with the Clippers and that could play a role when playoff seeds are decided. Denver is fifth in the conference -- two games in back of the Clippers.
Los Angeles missed top reserve and second-leading scorer Jamal Crawford, who sat out with a sore left ankle. Crawford is a tight defender around the perimeter and is averaging 17.2 ppg. In the previous four games, Crawford is averaging 23.0 ppg. The Sixth Man of the Year candidate has shot better than 50 percent in all six of his games since the All-Star break.
Paul, who has 50 assists to six turnovers in his last five games, is 25 points away from 10,000 in his career. He had 14 points in the first meeting with Detroit this season and is averaging 17.7 ppg in 13 career games against the Pistons.
The Clippers will play three straight and five of six games at home, and are 24-7 as the host this season. They are 37-8 in the last 45 regular-season games at home.
Detroit will hobble into Staples Center, having lost four in a row and seven of eight games.
In Friday's tough 102-99 loss versus the Dallas Mavericks, Charlie Villanueva had a chance to send the game into overtime but missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer. He ended with 12 points for the Pistons, who rallied from 15 points down in the fourth quarter, only to lose again. Villanueva and Khris Middleton combined for 22 points in the fourth quarter.
"I thought our guys took the challenge in the second half and came back much better defensively," Pistons coach Brian Hill said. "We got a couple of good looks at the end. The plays leading up to that hurt us the most."
Hill took over his second game for coach Lawrence Frank, who is back at home with his ill wife. Brandon Knight scored 21 points and Greg Monroe ended with 14 and 10 rebounds. Monroe is averaging 20.8 points and 9.8 boards in his last four contests.
On the bright side for the Pistons, they rank first in the Eastern Conference and third in the NBA in points in the paint with 46.0.
The Pistons are opening a four-game western trek Sunday and will also visit Utah, Golden State and Portland. They are just 8-21 on the road.
Detroit dropped an 88-76 home decision to the Clippers on Dec. 17 and has lost three straight and five of the past six matchups between the teams. However, the Pistons are 14-5 in the previous 19 games in this series.