PREVIEW: Clippers vs. Bucks (7p, Prime Ticket)


Almost a week after a much-needed victory in Milwaukee against the Bucks, the Los Angeles Clippers will play host to the rematch Tuesday at Staples Center.

With both teams in a battle to reach the playoffs, Tuesday’s matchup might not be against two of the top teams in the league, but it still promises to be spirited.

The Clippers are happy to be home after battling through a brutal stretch of the schedule where they faced many of the best teams the NBA has to offer. A run that had them play seven of eight games on the road came to a positive conclusion when Los Angeles pulled off a victory Sunday at Toronto. The Clippers went 2-0 against the Raptors this season.

But the Clippers have still dropped five of their last seven games and are now 2 1/2 games out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, with the ninth-place Denver Nuggets still a game ahead of them. Six of L.A.’s last nine games will be played at Staples Center, including the last three.

The Bucks are in a more desirable spot when it comes to playoff eligibility, sitting in seventh place in the Eastern Conference, a half-game ahead of eighth place Miami and a full six games ahead of ninth-place Detroit.

Like the Clippers, the Bucks are coming off a quality victory having downed the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday afternoon.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, who sprained his right ankle in last week’s defeat to the Clippers, returned to action Sunday and scored 25 points with 10 rebounds.

“(I’m) not 100 percent, but I felt like I was in a spot that I could help my teammates and that’s what I did tonight,” Antetokounmpo said, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “Hopefully moving forward, I can feel a lot better.”

The Clippers know the feeling. In a trying season that has been beset by injuries, Los Angeles never did have a stretch when everybody was healthy. Eventually, forward Blake Griffin was traded in late January, but somehow a shot at the playoffs remains a possibility.

Through the challenges, Clippers players have grown closer, and it showed Sunday at Toronto with plenty of hugs, high-fives and chest bumps. Expect the Clippers to once again be all touchy-feely Tuesday against the Bucks.

“We’ve had so much adversity, I think it’s brought us closer,” Clippers guard Lou Williams said of the willingness to embrace, according to the Los Angeles Times. “I think that’s just the personalities that we have. We congratulate each other when we do special things. We don’t have any disconnects when it comes to relationships. So when we accomplish things, I think it’s important for everybody to be on the same accord.”

The Clippers could see the return of forward Danilo Gallinari (hand) on Tuesday. He has missed much of the season with various injuries, but his hand issue dates back to Feb. 22. While Antetokounmpo did return to action Sunday, guard Matthew Dellavedova (ankle) is day-to-day, while guard Malcom Brogdon (quadriceps) remains out indefinitely.

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