LOS ANGELES -- Three weeks after the Los Angeles Clippers grabbed the top spot in the Western Conference with a burst of second-half energy against the Portland Trail Blazers, plenty has changed as the teams get set to face each other all over again.
Unlike that Nov. 25 game at Portland, which Clippers head coach Doc Rivers called "gritty" and the team's "best," Monday's rematch will take place in Los Angeles.
The Clippers have fluctuated in and out of the conference's top spot in the ensuing days after their win in Portland, but now find themselves on a three-game losing streak and losers of five of their last six games.
The Trail Blazers, meanwhile, are coming off an impressive 128-122 victory at home Friday against the Toronto Raptors, who currently hold the NBA's best record. It has the Trail Blazers feeling good again after a recent run where they had lost five of their last seven and eight of 11 going back past that recent stumble against the Clippers.
If the Clippers' best game was their reversal of fortune at Portland on Nov. 25, the Trail Blazers just put a star atop their dismissal of the Raptors, which was led by a bench that outscored Toronto's reserves 58-26.
"All five bench guys getting one was a special moment for us," the Blazers' Seth Curry said, according to the Portland Oregonian. "We've had a real tough stretch these past few weeks. It just feels good that everybody stayed confident, continued to work hard in practice and on off days and things like that. Everybody put it together. Everybody felt good about what they did tonight as a bench unit."
Bench play had been a staple of the Clippers' success so far this season, but Lou Williams, the top scorer on the reserve unit, has dealt with a three-week stretch where he was first under the weather and then hobbled with a recent hamstring injury.
Starter Tobias Harris had been picking up the scoring slack, earning November player of the month honors in the Western Conference, but teams finally appear to be catching up with the Clippers' inside-out offense that has been one of the highest scoring in the league.
Recently as high as fourth in scoring offense, the Clippers were down to sixth as of Sunday with 113.9 points per game. Portland was 11th at 111.6.
Yet even with their three-game slide, and seemingly overmatched against more energetic opponents of late, Rivers, ever the motivator, sounded thrilled with the effort in Saturday's 110-104 loss at Oklahoma City.
"I just liked our energy, our spirit; it was just good to see," Rivers said. "I thought for whatever reason our team returned (Saturday) and so, moving forward, I think we'll be in good shape if we can continue to do that."
Williams did not play for the Clippers at Oklahoma City on Saturday and is likely a game-time decision for Monday after missing three consecutive games. Luc Mbah a Moute remains out since October with a knee injury, but Rivers has said his rebounding and defending forward is getting close to coming back.
The Trail Blazers are healthy for their quick excursion to Los Angeles. Not only did they play at home Friday, they will return to Portland after Monday's game for three more home games, all against Western Conference opponents.