Like the eye of an ugly playoff-desperation hurricane, the Mavs travel to play the LA Clippers tonight. It's a very winnable game, and the Mavs should treat it as a must win. If they lose tonight, they could very well be looking at a potential six-game slide with a rough stretch ahead. So, this is just as important as those games against contenders, and luckily enough, the Clippers are terrible.
More on Elton Brand's return, Clippers injury woes and Al Thornton's big game after the jump:
Brand sniffing a return
Luckily, the Mavs just missed the return of Elton Brand. He's expected to return this Thursday against the Kings. Even if he comes back slowly, his presence will help an already injury-depleted Clippers squad, and the Mavs have to be thankful he's holding off for a few more days. Speaking of injuries...
Injuries add up
Tim Thomas missed Saturday's game with a sore Achilles. He's questionable for tonight, but has been ineffective in his last few games, anyway. Quinton Ross has also missed some time, and his absence hurts their depth more than anything. With Paul Davis having season-ending surgery, the Clippers active list is slimming considerably.
Thornton steps up
Rookie Al Thornton has had many disappointing stretches this season, especially since some considered him to be a Rookie of the Year dark horse. With Brand gone all year, there was a void to be filled in the Clippers lineup, and the oldest lottery pick looked like he might help out. Well, it took Tim Thomas being gone for Thornton to finally open up, and boy, did he ever. Against Memphis Saturday, Thornton scored a career-high 39 points to go along with 5 steals. This is the bargain the Clippers thought they were getting with their mid-first rounder, and these occasional flashes of greatness have to make them smile.
What direction is this franchise headed?