January 03, 2015

As the Philadelphia 76ers wind down a long trip in which they've shown undeniable progress, the Los Angeles Clippers may be wishing they could remain on the road.

Fresh off the first 5-0 trek in franchise history, the resilient Clippers return to Staples Center on Saturday night to take on the slowly improving 76ers.

After beginning their season-high winning streak as the designated visitor Christmas night against the crosstown rival Lakers, the Clippers (21-13) have posted four consecutive victories with Blake Griffin still sidelined by a partially torn quadriceps. They've won 14 of 19 since a 7-8 start compounded by injuries to backcourt starters Chris Paul and J.J. Redick.

''It's big for our confidence and our team morale,'' Paul said. ''We're a much better team with Blake but being able to do this without him gives us a little more confidence.''

The Clippers' scoring has actually increased despite missing Griffin's 23.2 points per game as Redick, sixth man Jamal Crawford and center DeAndre Jordan have boosted their production. Redick has averaged 21.0 points during Griffin's absence and recorded a second straight 26-point effort in Thursday's 95-89 decision at New Orleans.

"I feel like I've played pretty well this whole month (of December)," said Redick, shooting 62.5 percent from 3-point range over the four-game run. "The rhythm is there, for sure."

Jordan notched a fourth consecutive double-double with 11 points and a season-high 20 rebounds, while Crawford is averaging 15.7 points over his last three games after hitting double figures in just two of his previous 10.

The Clippers have averaged 108.5 points in the games Griffin's missed, a number that easily trumps the 76ers' league-low 92.3 per game.

Philadelphia (3-32) has reached the 100-point mark three times during this six-game trip in which its registered two of its three wins. After halting a 23-game road skid with last Saturday's 111-104 triumph at Phoenix, it bounced back from Monday's narrow loss at Utah to beat Sacramento 110-105 on Wednesday.

The 76ers couldn't sustain that modest surge in Friday's visit to Staples Center, where they shot 36.9 percent in a 94-83 loss to the Lakers to split the season series between the NBA's two worst teams.

Ish Smith finished 3 for 19 after the newly acquired point guard averaged 18.0 points and 8.3 assists in three games since being obtained from New Orleans on Dec. 24.

"Ish and Isaiah (Canaan) struggled. They went 5 for 30," coach Brett Brown said. "We felt like our defense was holding the fort, but we weren't able to make shots to break it open and their mobility at times got the better of us."

Nerlens Noel maintained his solid play on the trip by recording 15 points and 12 rebounds. The 21-year-old center has shot 71.8 percent while averaging 16.8 points, 9.5 rebounds and 3.0 steals over his last four.

Philadelphia also has performed poorly in dropping three straight on the road to the Clippers by an average of 36.7 points. It's averaged 80.3 points and 19.7 turnovers while losing each by at least 29.

Paul, coming off a 3 of 18 shooting effort versus New Orleans, tallied 24 points and 12 assists in a 127-91 home rout of the Sixers on Jan. 3, 2015. He scored 25 to help Los Angeles earn a 119-98 decision in Philadelphia on March 27 for its seventh consecutive victory in the series.

Noel amassed a career-high 30 points and 14 rebounds in the teams' last meeting.

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