Spurs, Clippers battle at Staples Center

(SportsNetwork.com) - With Chris Paul back in tow, the Los Angeles Clippers appear ready to make a run in the Western Conference.

They'll put the recent success to the test Tuesday versus the San Antonio Spurs at Staples Center and entered the All-Star break having won three in a row and eight of 11 games.

Paul returned from an 18-game absence Feb. 9 versus Philadelphia and recorded seven points and eight assists. The Clippers were 12-6 without Paul, who then posted 20 points and 12 assists in a win over Portland on Feb. 12, helping the Clippers to a 23-4 home record this season.

Los Angeles is 3-1 on a five-game homestand and has scored 100 points or more in 11 straight home games. It is 14-2 at home against Western Conference opponents and sits fourth in the West standings, two games in back of the Spurs for the second spot.

The Clippers are second in the NBA in points scored with 107.0 ppg and will start a three-game road trip this weekend against Memphis, Oklahoma City and New Orleans.

"We have a pretty good schedule coming up here," said Clippers forward Blake Griffin, who is averaging 29.7 points in his last 13 games and has eclipsed the 20-point mark in each. "We play some good teams on the road and at home. Really, locking in and making sure we execute our game plan every game."

Griffin had 38 points and Paul added 11 with 13 assists in Sunday's All-Star Game for the West.

Clippers head coach Doc Rovers said defense is key in making a run in the second half. L.A. is allowing 100.6 ppg this season.

"We haven't been consistent enough defensively," said Rivers. "You look at the Portland game the other night. We won in an offensive game because we got seven or eight straight stops at the end. And you look at that and think, 'What were we waiting for?' through that game. All of a sudden we started doing some things we should've been doing, so that's my concern. We've become so good offensively I think at times that we think, 'Well, we'll outscore them.' That does not work in the playoffs."

San Antonio is bound for another playoff appearance and sits four games behind the Thunder for the conference's top seed.

The Spurs took a break from their Rodeo trip with the All-Star Game and are 4-2 so far on the trek. The closed the first half of the season with a 104-92 triumph in Boston last Wednesday, as Tim Duncan scored 23 of his 25 points in the second half and Saturday's 3-point champion Marco Belinelli added 16 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists.

Duncan was not selected for the All-Star Game, but is vital to the Spurs.

"Had a tough first half, but, in the second half, he was a monster. He led the way for us," Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said of Duncan's last performance.

San Antonio is 20-7 away from the Alamo City this season and still has Portland and Phoenix to visit.

Spurs point guard Tony Parker was an All-Star and provided four points and one assist in 11 minutes of action. Parker leads the team with 17.7 points and 6.2 assists, and is questionable Tuesday for rest.

Center Tiago Splitter (calf) is questionable against the Clippers.

San Antonio and Los Angeles have split two meetings this season with each team prevailing on its home floor. The Spurs are 23-5 in the past 28 matchups in this series and 14-4 in the previous 18 meetings at Staples Center.