Having wrapped up December with just the third 16-0 month in NBA history, the L.A Clippers face tough challenges starting the New Year.
They play 4 games this week, with 2 opponents having winning records and the other at .500. The Los Angeles Clippers take their franchise-record 17-game lucky run into Denver, where the Nuggets are 9-1 at home.
”It’ll be a big test for us,” Blake Griffin said.
Denver is the 1st game of a back-to-back, with a visit to Golden State. The Warriors gave the Clippers their 1st loss of the season on November 3. The Clippers come home to host the Los Angeles Lakers, a team they’ve already beaten once and who are back to .500. Then comes the 2nd game of another back-to-back against the Warriors.
”We’re going to lose at some point, but this is a magical run,” expounded Caron Butler, who had 29 points in a 107-96 victory over the Utah Jazz that maintained the league’s best record at 25-6.
The Clippers haven’t lost since November 26.
They have proved they can win on successive nights during the streak, having done so on December 8 against Phoenix Suns and the following night against Toronto Raptors, then again on December 11 at Chicago and the following night in Milwaukee.
”We’re just trying to build as many wins as possible,” Chris Paul said. ”Last week was a hard week (wins over Denver, Boston and Utah twice). We don’t look past anybody.”
The L.A Clippers went 16-0 in December to join the 1995-96 San Antonio Spurs, which included Del Negro, and 1971-72 Lakers as the sole teams to go undefeated in a month. Their franchise-record lucky run is the longest since Boston won 19 in a row 4 years back.
”I am amazed because I haven’t done it since I’ve been in the league,” said Paul, a 7-year veteran who had 19 points and 9 assists against Utah. Basketball lines
The Clippers kept their streak alive despite Griffin scoring just 7 points due to foul trouble. Their bench came thru again, with Jamal Crawford scoring 11 of his 19 points in 4th quarter.
Butler sat in the 4th quarter after playing ”out of his mind” as Griffin put it in the opening quarter, when the veteran scored 17 points and hit 5 of his 6 3-pointers.
”It’s a tribute to everyone in here,” Griffin said. ”Everybody has been a big part one night or the other. It is a selfless attitude the team has taken on. This is the most fun I’ve ever had playing basketball.”
The Clippers have been winning without injured veterans Chauncey Billups and Grant Hill.
”We really haven’t had a chance to see what it’s like,” Paul recounted of the entire team.
Still, they’ve won 11 of their 17 games by 12 points or more, and their defense has allowed 100 points just 3 times during the streak. They’ve been winning so handily that Paul and Griffin seldom have to play in the 4th quarter. Both are averaging career low minutes in the last period this season.