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OKC Thunder: Blake Griffin and the Clippers arrive rested and rolling

THUNDER-CLIPPERS PREVIEW — The Los Angeles Clippers enter Wednesday night's game at Chesapeake Energy Arena having won eight of 10 to charge back into the thick of the Western Conference playoff picture.
BY JOHN ROHDE, Staff Writer, Published: April 10, 2012

When the Los Angeles Clippers last visited Chesapeake Energy Arena, they were playing their eighth game in 11 nights and in the middle of a back-to-back-to-back stretch, all on the road.

The Thunder pounced that night and went on to win 114-91 on March 21, handing the Clippers their 11th loss in the last 18 starts.

An already warm seat got even hotter for Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro, who could be heard yelling at his team from inside the locker room.

"Vinny has lost the team," reported. "They don't want to play hard for him."

The Clippers had fallen to 26-20 after a 19-9 start and would lose again the following night in Chris Paul's first game at New Orleans since being traded before the season.

His team was within two games of falling out of the playoffs and Paul wasn't making any excuses. "We've got to figure it out," Paul said after the Thunder loss. "It's getting to be a little bit embarrassing."

Evidently, the Clippers have since figured it out.

Following that loss to the Hornets, the Clippers won eight of their next nine before losing 94-85 on Monday night at Memphis in what could be a first-round playoff preview between the No. 4 and No. 5 seeds in the Western Conference.

The Clippers (34-23) are in a far more stable state this time around while preparing to battle the Thunder (42-15) at 7 p.m. on Wednesday in The Peake.

Del Negro remains the coach. Paul remains a magician, single-handedly pulling more victories out of a hat than any player in recent memory. And former Oklahoma great Blake Griffin had enough energy to actually smile following Tuesday's practice.

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