Griffin and Clippers are next for Sixers

Posted: February 09, 2012

Now it's Blake Griffin's turn.

In the last two weeks, the star power that has ventured into the Wells Fargo Center to face the 76ers has been staggering.

Next up are Griffin, point guard Chris Paul, and the Los Angeles Clippers. They visit the Sixers for Friday's matchup between teams that entered Thursday seeded third in their respective conferences.

The star power began with wins over Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic on Jan. 30 and reigning MVP Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls on Feb. 1.

Last Friday, LeBron James and fellow all-star Dwyane Wade led Miami to a 99-79 victory before the Sixers' biggest home crowd of the season, 20,694.

On Monday, the Sixers beat Kobe Bryant's Los Angeles Lakers before 20,064. On Wednesday the San Antonio Spurs with Tony Parker and Tim Duncan defeated the Sixers, 100-90.

Now it's Griffin, who missed what would have been his first year with a broken kneecap but was an all-star last season, when he also won the slam-dunk championship after leaping over a car for one of his celebrated slams.

This season, Griffin made the NBA's most memorable play when he slammed one in the face of Oklahoma City's Kendrick Perkins in a Jan. 30 game. That became a YouTube sensation and caused a Twitter war between James and Perkins.

"I haven't talked about it much recently," Griffin said of that dunk Thursday after the Clippers practiced at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. "It's just one play."

Besides their 15-8 record, the Clippers have done something once considered impossible - upstaging the Lakers in Los Angeles.

Entering Thursday, the Clippers were second in the NBA in road attendance, averaging 19,142. The Lakers barely earned the top spot, at 19,145.

And, while Paul does not lack name recognition, it's the 6-foot-10 Griffin who has become a certified gate attraction. Fans are attracted to the high fliers, and the Clippers are playing to huge crowds and creating a serious buzz.

"When you have Blake Griffin, it's going to be like that every night," Paul said. "It's fun and exciting, but the best thing about us is that we're winning."

Paul and Griffin have formed a dangerous combination, especially off the pick- and-roll. When Griffin gets close to the basket, he can demoralize an opponent.

"You have to protect the rim and keep him outside of the paint, which is a tough task because he is so athletic and ferocious out there," Sixers forward Elton Brand said after Thursday's practice at PCOM.

The Sixers (18-8) are 3-2 in these home games against some of the NBA's top players and teams.

Coach Doug Collins says his goal is to win 75 percent of the home games and stay above .500 on the road. The Sixers are 13-4 at the Wells Fargo Center and own the most home wins in the NBA. They are 5-5 on the road.

The atmosphere at home, especially the last two weeks, has been electric. Another big crowd will likely be on hand Friday. As of early Thursday evening, a limited number of tickets remained, a Sixers official said.

Griffin knows what to expect.

"Now there is more of a bull's-eye on our back, and teams are coming after us, so to speak, and fans want to see us lose," said Griffin, who is averaging 21.4 points and 11 rebounds. "That is the biggest change."

The really biggest change this season is that fans want to see the Clippers, period.

Notes. After Wednesday's loss to visiting San Antonio, the Sixers are looking to avoid consecutive losses for the first time this season. . . . Center Spencer Hawes, who missed Wednesday's game because of his lingering sore left Achilles tendon, did not practice Thursday and remains listed day-to-day. . . . Brand, who had 11 points and 13 rebounds against San Antonio after missing two games with a sprained right thumb, said he still felt pain. . . . The Clippers lost guard Chauncey Billups, a noted Sixers killer, for the season with a torn Achilles tendon in Monday's 107-102 overtime win at Orlando. Former Villanova star Randy Foye started in Billups' place in Wednesday's 99-92 loss in Cleveland. . . . The Sixers entered Thursday second in the NBA in scoring defense (87.2 ppg.), while the Clippers were fourth in scoring offense (99.4).


Contact staff writer Marc Narducci at mnarducci@phillynews.com, 856-779-3225 or @sjnard on Twitter.

 

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