It wasn't long ago rumors were swirling that Los Angeles Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro lost control of the team.
The Clippers must have had their ears to the ground and responded with four straight wins. They hope to keep the momentum going under Del Negro tonight in the conclusion of a five-game homestand versus the Utah Jazz.
Del Negro's squad improved to 4-0 on the residency and recorded its sixth win a row as the host with Friday's 98-97 victory versus the Portland Trail Blazers at Staples Center, as Chris Paul scored 20 points and sank the go- ahead shot with 5.0 seconds remaining in the game.
"This was a collective effort," said Paul. "It wasn't just me. We got a big stop at the end."
Paul added 14 assists, while Blake Griffin and Randy Foye also scored 20 points apiece for the Clippers, who are 19-8 at home and sit one game ahead of Dallas for the fourth seed in the Western Conference. The Clippers are one game behind the rival Lakers in both the conference standings and for the Pacific Division lead.
Griffin has posted averages of 21.8 points and 11.0 rebounds during the winning streak. Los Angeles hasn't won five in a row overall since Nov. 2-12, 2006, and will visit the Mavericks on Monday before returning to Hollywood to host the Lakers on April 4.
Utah has a lot riding on the line and is just a game off both the seventh and eighth seeds in the West. It has dropped two straight and three of four since a six-game winning streak, however, and will begin a quick road trip tonight against the Clippers and Trail Blazers.
The Jazz sustained a 104-103 setback versus Sacramento Friday night in Salt Lake City, as DeMarcus Cousins' free throw with 3.8 seconds remaining put the Kings on top for good. Al Jefferson finished with 27 points and 16 rebounds, while Gordon Hayward had 19 points for Utah, which shot a paltry 35.2 percent for the game and had a seven-game home winning streak stopped.
"It's a tough loss. We came out from the beginning and didn't have the energy we thought we would have," Jazz head coach Tyrone Corbin told the team's website. "We were lethargic and let them hang around and I didn't think we executed our offense like we have been."
Utah is 8-18 away from home this season and has split two meetings -- both in SLC -- with the Clippers this season. The Jazz are still a dominant 16-4 in the past 20 matchups with the Clippers.