Back from a winless road trip, the banged-up Los Angeles Clippers are looking for ways to improve their third-quarter performance.
So are the Detroit Pistons.
Opening a home-heavy portion of its schedule, Los Angeles tries to snap a four-game losing streak Friday and extend the Pistons' worst road start in 15 years.
The Clippers, one loss shy of their second 1-9 start in three years, play 11 of their next 16 at Staples Center, but they're returning from an 0-4 trip that was far more costly than losses added to their record.
Leading scorer Eric Gordon (21.1 points per game) injured his left shoulder in Saturday's 109-107 double-overtime loss to Utah and is day-to-day after missing the last two games. All-Star center Chris Kaman is likely sidelined for two weeks after spraining his left ankle Tuesday in a 101-82 loss to New Orleans.
Without Gordon, Kaman, Baron Davis (sore knee) and backup guard Randy Foye (left hamstring), Los Angeles used its fourth starting lineup of the season in Wednesday's 107-95 loss at San Antonio.
"We got five guys hurt. It's weird, we came out of the locker to warm up and it was like half our team out there," said rookie Blake Griffin, who struggled on the final two stops of the trip with 10.5 points and 7.0 rebounds per game. "It's like going into a battle with half your guys. But we can't make excuses."
Clippers first-year coach Vinny Del Negro needs to help his team find an answer for its third-quarter woes. Los Angeles, outscored by an average of 12.5 points in the third versus Denver and Utah to open its trip, is averaging a Western Conference-worst 19.7 points on 40.5 percent shooting in that quarter this season.
The Pistons (2-6) are making 39.4 percent in the third while averaging 21.0 points. Detroit has been particularly bad in the opening three minutes of the second half, shooting 26.5 percent (9 for 34).
Looking to win their third straight to open a four-game western swing, the Pistons were outscored 8-2 in the first 3:58 after halftime of Tuesday's 100-78 loss at Portland.
"We did not start out the third period the right way," said coach John Kuester, whose team is 0-4 on the road and has lost 13 of 15 visiting West opponents. "When you're on the road, mental toughness is paramount. The energy was not what it needs to be to win on the road."
Detroit, among the league's worst road teams in scoring (88.0 ppg) and field goal percentage (41.2), is off to its worst start away from home since dropping its first six in 1995-96.
The Pistons had won six consecutive road games against the Clippers before losing the teams' most recent matchup, 97-91 on Feb. 24.
Richard Hamilton led Detroit with 21 points in that defeat, but he's coming off a season-low four points Tuesday.
The Pistons were swept in last season's series after winning the previous 13 meetings.
Davis averaged 17.5 points, 8.5 assists and 6.0 boards versus Detroit last season, and it's possible he will return Friday after missing five of the last six games.
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