This is getting to be downright ridiculous.
On the road, on an opponent’s court that hadn’t yielded a win in almost seven years, the Clippers delivered a decisive argument for being not only the best team in the Western Conference, but the entire NBA. I pose the question, what other team in the NBA can sustain an off night by their center and still win by 26 points?
Their latest victim, and admittedly tired Phoenix Suns squad (who played a tough contest in Portland the previous night), was buried under a barrage of dunks, steals, 3-pointers, suffocating defense… you get the picture. The Clippers led by four after the first quarter, with Chris Paul pouring in 12 points (ending up with 17 to go along with 13 assists), extended their lead to 15 by halftime, then blitzed the over matched Suns in an almost perfect 3rd quarter to go up by 21 entering the final twelve minutes. With the bench taking the reigns for the entire fourth quarter, the lead bulged to 31 before before both benches emptied over the last 5 minutes of play.
Blake Griffin scored 23 points and snatched 11 rebounds to lead the Clippers, with perhaps his most impressive stat being a perfect 6 for 6 from the charity stripe.
“We’re just taking care of business right now,” Griffin said. “To be honest, we’re not really concerned with “You haven’t won here since then’ or “You haven’t won this many games in a row.’
“We hear it all but we’re about just getting these wins and if they come within a streak or when we haven’t won somewhere, that’s fine.”
Jamal Crawford shook off a slight shooting slump to add 22 points on 8-12 shooting, including 3 of 6 from the 3-point line, while Matt Barnes again showed why he was perhaps the best free-agent pickup of the entire off season (for any team!) by pumping in 15 points on 5-7 shooting (3-4 on 3-pointers) and pulling down 8 rebounds. Lamar Odom, after a mild scare rolling his ankle in the 2nd period, returned to the game and gave the Suns fits with his cagey defensive play.
For the Suns, Jared Dudley scored 19 points and collected 7 rebounds, but point guard Goran Dragic was harassed into a horrible night and finished with only 7 points and a single assist. Forward/Center Luis Scola, looking a step slow, only managed 11 points and four rebounds, with Center Marcin Gortat not looking much better with 8 points (but a respectable 12 rebounds).
The Suns had 16 turnovers against the Clippers, who lead the NBA by forcing an average of 17.5 per game. Los Angeles was a bit sloppy with the ball, too, turning it over 16 times.
“They’re playing show basketball with the alley-oops and the fancy passes,” said Suns center Marcin Gortat, who had eight points and 12 rebounds but also four turnovers. “They can afford to turn the ball over a few times. Our team can’t fall for that. We have to run what the coach is telling us to run and to execute.”
Suns Coach Alvin Gentry was ejected with 2:33 left in the first half and received a double technical (ironically, Jamal Crawford missed both free throws).
But it really was the defense that took center stage, with Chris Paul and Blake Griffin combining for 11 steals and the rest of the team forcing 17 total turnovers. Phoenix was held to only 43% shooting for the game.
“It was our defense right there towards the end of the half,” Paul said. “I think we were up like six and then you look and we’re up 15. We got some very timely steals.”
This Clippers now return home for a tough game against the Denver Nuggets on Christmas night, hoping to extend their streak to 14 and finish the month with their best win total in franchise history. With this squad, they just may get deep into February (and beyond) before someone stops them.
Of course, there is still the matter of January 4th, which all Clippers fans will be nervously anticipating…
Tags: Blake Griffin Caron Butler Chauncey Billups Chris Paul DeAndre Jordan Eric Bledsoe Grant Hill Jamal Crawford LA Clippers Lamar Odom Lob City Los Angeles Los Angeles Clippers Los Angeles Clippers Matt Barnes NBA Vinny Del Negro