Jan 9, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard O.J. Mayo (32) is defended by Los Angeles Clippers forward Lamar Odom (7) and guard Chris Paul (3) at the Staples Center. The Clippers defeated the Mavericks 99-93. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports

Clippers victory over Mavs a championship step

There are going to be nights like this. And these are the games that make champions…

The Clippers, now owners of the League’s best record and 13 straight home victories, had to scratch and claw their way out of a 10 point hole to pull out a 99-93 victory over the Dallas Mavericks. In a season full of milestones, this may have been the most important of all. Like the San Antonio Spurs fighting off an undermanned, yet determined Los Angeles Lakers on their home floor earlier that same evening, the Clippers can now expect the best effort from every team they’ll play for the next (hopefully) many years and will have to play hard against not only these feisty opponents, but themselves as well.

It would have been easy to let a game like this slip by, chalk it up to overlooking a struggling opponent, and regroup to fight another sub par team in Orlando on Saturday. Heck, the Oklahoma City Thunder lost at home to Brooklyn Nets and turned in another clunker against the New Orleans Hornets a few nights later; and the Miami Heat (obviously trying to stave off post title boredom, has dropped games against Washington and Detroit.

But that just isn’t the Clippers. Not this year. Not with this team and Chris Paul leading the way.

So when that 10 point deficit reared its ugly head in the 3rd quarter and the Clippers had to decide which way this thing was ultimately going to play out, they steadied themselves, let their bench cut the lead down to 3 on a three pointer by Matt Barnes (who hit five of them) as the 3rd quarter ended. A few minutes later, the Clippes took their first lead in the 4th at 82-80 and never looked back. Though the Mavs would continue to push, the Clippers pushed back harder and secured the victory on two huge offensive rebounds by Caron Butler as time wound down.

“In the fourth quarter, we needed to stay with the aggressiveness,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. “But they turned it up and we just didn’t get it done.”

The Clippers, time and time again this season, are showing the maturity, cohesiveness, and will that is necessary to elevate themselves into position for postseason success. On night’s when the team comes out flat, doesn’t get the best performances from its stars (Blake Griffin was actually disappointed with his 15 points and 15 rebounds and Jamal Crawford only scored 11 points in 26 minutes in his return from a foot injury), and faces a proud franchise fighting to return to relevancy, the Clippers still found the temerity to notch another win.

This is what contenders do. This is what the Clippers now are.

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Tags: Blake Griffin Caron Butler Chauncey Billups Chris Paul Dallas Mavericks DeAndre Jordan Eric Bledsoe Grant Hill Jamal Crawford LA Clippers Lamar Odom Los Angeles Clippers Los Angeles Clippers Matt Barnes NBA Vinny Del Negro

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