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Clippers vs. Pistons Preview: The Marathon Trip Begins

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The Clippers try to get revenge for their home loss to the Pistons last month.

NBA: Detroit Pistons at Los Angeles Clippers Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Game Information:

Where: Little Caesars Arena, Detroit, MI

When: 2:00 PM PT

How to Watch/Listen: FOX Sports West, AM 570 Radio

Projected Starting Lineups:

Pistons: Reggie Jackson/Bruce Brown/Reggie Bullock/Blake Griffin/Andre Drummond

Clippers: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander/Patrick Beverley/Avery Bradley/Tobias Harris/Marcin Gortat

Injuries:

Pistons: Ish Smith (groin) is questionable.

Clippers: Luc Mbah a Moute (knee) and Danilo Gallinari (back) are out.

The Scene:

Saturday marks the start of a 12-day, 6-game, 6,659-mile road trip for the Clippers (28-24). It’s also the third time, and second this season, they’ve faced off against former franchise centerpiece Blake Griffin and his Detroit Pistons (22-28). Both teams are on the fringe of the playoffs, with the Clippers leading the Lakers by a single game in the standings and the Pistons trying to squeak back into the picture in the lowly East. So, it’s going to have a level of intensity that outweighs the Griffin sentiment, or revenge, element.

Considering it’s also the jumping off point of such a lengthy, icy east coast trip, the Clippers will be in a position of urgency to bounce back after two-straight disappointments at home.

The People:

1. Blake Griffin. Recently named to his sixth All-Star team, Griffin will likely play with a similar level of bitter ferocity to that which he unleashed against the Clippers in their matchup a few weeks ago. Griffin, who put in 44 points and more than 44 scowls, owned the game, reminding the once-groveling Staples Center crowd why the Clippers signed him to a maximum contract two summers ago and why the Pistons were willing to gamble on his health in last season’s surprise trade. Angry Blake Griffin usually results in one of two things: A) a monster showing like he did in the previous meeting with his former team. B) foul trouble, more anger, and ultimately mentally removing himself from becoming an impact player. The former has proven to be the most likely outcome, while Griffin has rarely succumbed to the latter in his Pistons tenure.

2. Jerome Robinson. The “other” rookie has been seeing the court more often lately (eight straight appearances). After dropping seven points on a career-high eight shots and career-high 17:29 minutes of playing time, Robinson is showing that he has the kind of bounce that made him a late lottery pick in June. Against the Lakers on Thursday, he knocked down a contested 3-pointer and whirling reverse layup and showed a fearlessness that bodes well. Oddly, Robinson’s recent emergence has also spelled more inconsistent minutes for fellow rookie Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

3. Tobias Harris. Harris likely should have been selected as an All-Star reserve. He needs to play like it.

The Turning Point:

The Clippers have allowed 123 points in their previous two losses and have fallen in eight of their past 12 games, allowing their opponent to top 120 points or more five times. The Pistons have only topped 120 twice since Nov. 9 and needed overtime in both of those games to do so. Despite being without their best scorer (Danilo Gallinari), the Clippers will need to find a way to play with pace against an oversized, outmatched Pistons team that wants no part of an up-and-down game.

Take Note:

The Clippers have won seven of their past eight games in Detroit. This is only their second appearance in Little Caesars Arena… Boban Marjanovic, a former Piston, scored in double-figures on Thursday. It was his first appearance in 13 days and first 10-plus outing in a month… The Clippers are 13-12 on the road this season...