If ever there was a trap game, this was it.
Playing on only a few hours rest (their delayed flight landed at 4am in Charlotte) after a grueling battle with Chicago the previous night, the Clippers could be forgiven for coming out a bit fatigued. Luckily, they were playing the Charlotte Bobcats, owners of eight straight losses after a promising 7-5 start.
No matter, these aren’t your grandmomma’s Los Angeles Clippers.
Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, and Matt Barnes poured in 19 points apiece – Griffin providing enough highlight reel dunks to fuel sports news segments for days – to grind out a victory over the game, but ultimately over matched Charlotte Bobcats. Barnes was particularly devastating, scoring on 3-pointers, layups, and even a breakaway dunk to quell every uprising the Bobcats threw the Clippers’ way. Eric Bledsoe again was a defensive force, blocking a break away by Kemba Walker and scoring 13 points in 22 minutes. Jamal Crawford had an off night, going 2-12, but managed to dish out 8 assists to more than compensate for his shooting woes. Lamar Odom had 5 points in reserve, but helped on several key stops, defensively.
For the Bobcats, forward/center Byron Mullens led the team with 19 points and 8 rebounds, followed by Kemba Walker with 17. Ramon Sessions, who played for the Los Angeles Lakers, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist added 11 points each.
As the game begain, the Clippers surged to a 8-3 lead on a DeAndre Jordan slam off a Chris Paul assist, but then fell behind 11-10 when Bismack Biyombo scored on a layup with an assist from Gerald Henderson. Willie Green quickly answered, however, with a jump shot to regain the lead and the Clippers never trailed after that point. Charlotte was able to cut the Clippers deficit to 4 at multiple times during the second quarter, but the Clippers answered with timely baskets and/or defensive stops to halt their momentum each time.
In the third quarter, the Bobcats were able to close to within 2 points on Byron Mullens dunk at the five minute mark, but Chris Paul scored five quick points to push the Clippers’ lead back up to seven and, at that point, the reserves entered and held the lead to end the quarter. Matt Barnes scored twice on a spectacular ally oop dunk at the 8 minute mark, then immediately followed it with a 3-pointer off an assist from Bledsoe.
The Clippers bench extended the lead to 10 in the 4th quarter, though both teams struggled to score for almost three minutes before Eric Bledsoe tipped in a Jamal Crawford miss. At that point, the Clippers starters re-entered the game and closed it out in almost workman-like fashion. Chris Paul scored the last 7 points to thwart a last minute barrage of 3-pointers by the Bobcats and the victory was complete.
With the victory, the Clippers have now won eight straight games and are keeping ahead of the surprising Golden State Warriors, who won their 5th straight at Miami to stay only a game behind in the Pacific Division standings. The Clippers will face the Warriors twice in the span of three days in early January and have already been defeated at home by Golden State earlier this season.
But now, with their 8-game winning streak on the line, the Clippers head north to play the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday.