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The CW (Clipper Weekly), 14th Edition

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Current Record: 29-30, 3rd Pacific, T-7th West

Last Week: If LAist didn’t know any better, we would have assumed the latest rash of injuries to hit sports stars across LA was just another insidious terrorist plot hatched up on 24, given the number of attacks our fair city has received over the years on the show. We saw Becks go down before even getting to LA. We saw Lamar Odom getting injured again and joining the Lakers’ ever-increasing infirmary list. In Clipper Nation, all of the talk has been about the horrible knee injuries suffered by Shaun Livingston in Monday’s game against Charlotte, which will keep him sidelined for not only this season but potentially next season as well. While many across the sports world were saddened by the cruel twist of fate handed to Shaun, by all accounts a nice guy and hard worker, the Clippers’ games seemed almost secondary.

But the games did go on. The Clips split their home and home with Seattle (including an absolutely putrid two-point loss on Thursday which was roughly equivalent to watching those Dharma Initiative brainwashing videos), but put together a franchise-record defensive performance in holding Indiana to 64 points in Saturday night’s win. Amazingly, the Clippers made up ground because of the overall mediocrity of the middle teams in the West, rising up to the 7 spot in West with Denver (and amazingly only three back in the loss column of the Lakers), and opening up a 1.5 game lead over the Hornets.

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Quick Take: The severity of Livingston’s injury cast a considerable cloud over the team, which hasn’t exactly been full of sunshine most of the year. On the court, however, it left a gaping hole at point guard. Sam Cassell has done his best to stay upright, but his body is clearly not as indestructible as his brass balls. He put in 34 minutes on Wednesday despite nursing a strained abdomen, but his groin gave out on him and he’s indefinitely out of action.

Right now, the team is looking at anyone with a pulse to fill the void. Incumbent choice Daniel Ewing may one day turn into a fine point guard, but he has no business playing 30-35 minutes for a playoff contender. He simply lacks the experience to run the offense effectively, evidenced by the Clips’ 81 point average during the past two games. The Clippers signed rookie Will Conroy out of the D-League, who brings plenty of energy but is still learning the game. They are also looking at picking up Jason Hart, who has played sparingly this year and just bought out his contract from Sacramento. Also rumored are Teen Wolf and Juwanna Mann. Because no one seems to really want these last two playoff spots, the Clips still are positioned well to sneak in, but it will be largely determined by how well the youngsters respond to their trial by fire.

This Week:

Monday: vs. San Antonio (PRIME, 7:30 pm) - while the Mavs and Suns are generating all the buzz (and justifiably so) for their stellar play, the Spurs are quietly playing as well as either of them, winning eight straight (and none closer than seven points) and priming themselves for another deep playoff run. San Antonio has hammered the Clippers in both meetings this season, with Tony Parker wreaking havoc offensively by his ability to get into the paint and either score or kick it out for open jumpers. The Clips might catch a break as Parker is nursing a strained hip and may not play. Unfortunately, in facing the league's most stingy scoring defense, LA will have to be considerably more efficient than usual on offense to stay in the game.

Friday: at Golden St. (PRIME, 7:30 pm) - a week and a half ago, the Clips and the Warriors were running neck and neck in the standings; after LA handled its Northern California neighbors convincingly, Golden St. went into a tailspin, dropping its next five and falling into last place. The Clippers should be well-rested with four days off leading into the game, and have the opportunity to really bury the Warriors in the playoff chase. Steven Jackson fractured his toe last week and may be unavailable, depending on MRI results. His return shouldn't make any difference if the Clips exploit their size advantage again, which enabled LA to enjoy a 48-35 rebounding edge and 35-15 difference in free throw attempts last time.

Sunday: vs. Detroit (no TV, 12:00 pm) - the Pistons absolutely spanked the Clippers last month in Auburn Hills and are the only team in the East that looks to be a legitimate title threat this late in the year, winning 12 of 14 and solidifying a potential number one seed. Chris Webber continues to show that he still has some gas in the tank, thriving as a complementary player in the Pistons' egalitarian system. Surprisingly, it's been the Pistons' defense that has improved most in the 21 games since Webber's arrival: they've only allowed 100 or more points three times during that stretch. What it reflects is the renewed focus that Detroit has gained, now that they're not as focused on bickering with Flip Saunders. The Clips will need to hope that Detroit somehow misplaces this concentration in transit, as it's the team's last West Coast swing of the year.

AP Photo by Reed Saxon