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Clippers-Spurs Preview

By SCOTT GARBARINI

STATS Writer

(AP) -- The San Antonio Spurs' stretch of home dominance has exceeded even their previous standards of excellence.

Don't expect the Los Angeles Clippers to be intimidated, however, in Friday night's visit to AT&T Center for the teams' first meeting since last season's thrilling playoff series.

There's no shortage of storylines for this marquee matchup of Western Conference heavyweights, both of whom are in top form with the Clippers overcoming a sluggish opening month to win nine of 11.

The Spurs, winners of four straight and eight of nine, have been consistently good in posting a 22-5 record surpassed only by one-loss Golden State. They've been invincible at home in regular-season play since the latter stages of last season, outscoring opponents by an average of 18.1 points in winning a franchise-record 23 straight.

That reign of supremacy didn't extend into April's quarterfinals with Los Angeles (16-10), which came through with two pivotal victories in San Antonio to advance in seven games. The Clippers trailed in the series entering Games 4 and 6 and won both.

Los Angeles also dealt the Spurs their worst home loss of last season, 105-85 on Jan. 31.

The Clippers have had similar success on the road of late, winning five of six. They went 4-1 on an eight-day trip before getting another solid all-around effort in Wednesday's 103-90 home decision over injury-plagued Milwaukee.

Chris Paul scored 21 points and J.J. Redick added 19 in the Clippers' third straight win overall. Both have recovered from recent injuries to bring needed balance to an offense that was too often reliant on Blake Griffin during a 7-8 start.

Redick is averaging 20.6 points while shooting 54.8 percent from 3-point range over a five-game stretch. Paul is averaging 15.5 points and 10.3 assists in six games since returning from a rib injury while anchoring a defense that's held opponents to 41.1 percent shooting over the last four.

"I think defensively we're starting to get it. And it just makes us a better offensive team, right?," coach Doc Rivers said. "I don't think our team connected the dots early on that to be a good offensive team, you have to be a good defensive team because you have to get stops, you have to get stops in a row."

Defense has been the Spurs' calling card all season, as they're yielding a league-low 88.2 points per game and rank near the top in opposing field goal percentage (41.8). They limited Washington to 43 points and 36.4 percent shooting in the second half of Wednesday's 114-95 triumph that eclipsed the club's 22-game home win streak in 2010-11.

"We showed a lot more aggressiveness, a lot more contact and a lot more competitiveness in the second half, starting with transition 'D'," coach Gregg Popovich said. "That changed the game for us."

The offense has been rolling lately as well, with San Antonio shooting 52.6 percent and averaging 108.5 points over its last eight. Kawhi Leonard has hit at a 60.5 percent clip while averaging 23.7 points over the past three, highlighted by Wednesday's 27-point performance.

San Antonio will have Tim Duncan back after resting him Wednesday. The 39-year-old is posting career-low averages in scoring (9.0), rebounding (8.3) and minutes played (26.5).

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