LOS ANGELES -- Doc Rivers is used to switching up his starting lineup at the last minute by now.
During the Los Angeles Clippers’ current 11-game winning streak, L.A. has been without, at various times, J.J. Redick, Jamal Crawford, Jared Dudley and Darren Collison. (You could also add Danny Granger when he was forced to miss a game as a result of not being circled on the active list.)
On Sunday, Willie Green was forced to start at shooting guard as essentially the team’s fourth option. Redick, who would normally start, is sidelined indefinitely with a bulging disk in his lower back. His backup Crawford is sidelined at least another week with a strained left calf. And Collison, who was starting in Crawford’s place (and also started in place of Chris Paul this season) was a late scratch with a stomach virus.
As has been the case this season, the Clippers didn’t miss a beat without Redick, Crawford or Collison as they beat the Cleveland Cavaliers, 102-80, to win a season-high and current league-high 11th straight game.
How it happened: The Clippers jumped out to a 14-point lead in the first quarter and pushed it to 16 by halftime and 21 in the third quarter. L.A., however, let Cleveland back into the game in fourth quarter as its lead was dwindled down to seven points before the Clippers finally pulled away.
What it means: It means the Clippers have won a season-high 11 straight games, the longest active winning streak in the league. They also took a six-game lead over the Golden State Warriors in the Pacific Division. The Clippers also hold a three-game lead, which is really four with the tiebreaker, over the Houston Rockets for the third seed. L.A. is just three games back of the top seed in the West and two games back of the No. 2 seed.
Hits: Blake Griffin had 21 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists and has now scored at least 20 points in a franchise-record 26 straight games, which is the second-longest streak in the NBA this season. Paul had 16 points and 15 assists and DeAndre Jordan had 15 points and 10 rebounds. It was the eighth time this season all three players reached a double-double in the same game. The Clippers’ “big three” has combined for 108 double-doubles this season, the most by three teammates in the NBA this year.
Misses: It was a rough night for Glen "Big Baby" Davis, who has played well defensively but has yet to make his presence felt on offense. On Sunday he went 1-for-5 from the field for two points off the bench, but added seven rebounds.
Stat of the game: The Clippers had 25 fast-break points to just five for Cleveland and had 40 points in the paint compared to 30 for the Cavs.
Up next: The Clippers will board a flight to Denver immediately after the game to play the Denver Nuggets on Sunday. The season series is tied after the Clippers lost to the Nuggets in their last meeting in Denver, when Randy Foye hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to give the Nuggets a 116-115 win.
LOS ANGELES -- Blake Griffin had 21 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists on his 25th birthday, and the Los Angeles Clippers held off the Cleveland Cavaliers 102-80 Sunday night for their 11th consecutive victory.
Chris Paul had 15 assists and scored 11 of his 16 points in the final 6:04 for the Clippers, who haven't lost since Feb. 21.
Los Angeles matched the longest winning streak in the NBA this season, equaling 11-game runs in November by Portland and San Antonio.
Luol Deng scored 23 points and Dion Waiters had 15 for the Cavaliers, who lost Kyrie Irving in the first quarter to a left biceps injury. Cleveland had won on its first two stops of a three-game West Coast road trip, but never led against the Clippers.
Irving played 10 minutes Sunday night before going to the locker room. He had two points and four assists, missing all five of his shots.
The All-Star game MVP is the top scorer among Eastern Conference point guards with 21.5 points per game. He also leads the Cavaliers with 6.3 assists.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
LOS ANGELES -- Los Angeles Clippers guard Darren Collison was a late scratch in Sunday's game against the Cleveland Cavaliers, missing the game with a stomach virus. Willie Green started in his place.
Collison was thrust into the starting lineup because J.J. Redick is out indefinitely with a bulging disk in his lower back while Jamal Crawford will be sidelined at least another week with a strained left calf.
Collison, who is hoping to be back for Monday's game against the Denver Nuggets, has started 26 of 67 games for the Clippers this season with the team going 20-6 with him in the starting lineup. Collison is averaging 16.3 points per game in March while shooting 49.4 percent from the field.
The combination of a lesser team approaching the contest like a playoff game and a superior team looking ahead to the actual playoffs can be an easy recipe for an upset.
“It’s human nature,” Rivers said.
For the majority of Friday’s game against the Utah Jazz, it looked as if the Clippers would fall victim to human nature and an upset. But they woke up late in the third quarter to record their season-high and current league-leading 10th straight game, defeating the Jazz 96-87.
How it happened: The Jazz jumped out to a 13-point lead in the first quarter and led by double digits for most of the first half. It wasn’t until the end of the third quarter that the Clippers finally made their move and took their first lead of the game. The Clippers closed out the quarter on a 17-2 run and took a five-point lead into the final period. The Clippers went up by as many as 11 points in the fourth quarter and held on.
What it means: The Clippers have won a season-high 10 straight games, the longest active winning streak in the league. They also took a five-game lead over the Golden State Warriors in the Pacific Division. The Clippers also hold a two-game lead, which is really three with the tiebreaker, over the Houston Rockets for the third seed. The Clippers are just three games back of the top seed in the West and two games back of the No. 2 seed.
Hits: Blake Griffin had 20 points and has now scored at least 20 points in a franchise-record 25 straight games, which is the second longest streak in the NBA this season. Chris Paul had 18 points and seven assists and played through a sprained left ankle that he suffered in the second half. Matt Barnes had 15 points and Darren Collison added 14 points.
Misses: After his best game as a Clipper on Wednesday, Danny Granger had his worst on Friday, finishing without scoring on 0-for-4 shooting in 17 minutes off the bench.
Stat of the game: The Clippers had 31 fast-break points -- compared to 10 for the Jazz -- and outscored the Jazz 53-36 in the second half.
Up next: The Clippers will get Saturday off before playing the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday at Staples Center. The Cavaliers are just 25-40 this season. But one of their biggest wins came earlier this season when they beat the Clippers 88-82 in Ohio. Sunday will be the second and final meeting of the season between the teams as the Clippers try to win their 11th straight.
SALT LAKE CITY -- Blake Griffin had 20 points and Chris Paul shook off a sprained ankle to score 18 points and extended the Los Angeles Clippers' winning streak to 10 with a 96-87 victory over the Utah Jazz on Friday night.
Los Angeles had its lowest points total during the streak, but the Clippers won this time with defense, forcing 20 turnovers by the Jazz that led to 31 points.
The Jazz led 70-60 in the third-quarter, but the Clippers capitalized on a rash of Utah miscues and poor shot selection to go on a 20-2 run.
Paul landed awkwardly against the basketball standard after a layup, spraining his left ankle. The point guard limped up and down the court, but still quarterbacked the Clippers' come-from-behind-third quarter burst. He had seven points and three assists in the six-minute run that ended with Will Green's 3-pointer with 10:37 to play that made it 80-72.
Here's where the beauty in all of this resides: Tom Thibodeau's Bulls beat the Heat, and the arguments get louder about him being the best coach in the NBA. Frank Vogel finds a way to lose four games in a row, but his Pacers still maintain the second-best record in the league. Gregg Popovich, aka Everyone's Greatest Coach Coaching, loses Tony Parker, Kawhi Lenard and Manu Ginobili for stretches during the season, yet his Spurs have the league's best record. Doc Rivers, in just a half-season, turns Blake Griffin into a complete player (which no other coach has been able to do), loses Chris Paul and J.J. Redick for blocks of games, and could still possibly win 60 games. Scott Brooks loses Russell Westbrook for over half a season and OKC barely (yeah, I said it, "barely") misses a beat, and starts playing below-average ball only when Westbrook returns. And not one of those aforementioned gurus above is front-running for this year's NBA Coach of the Year.
Yes, the least talked about, least sexy award in the NBA, the one that George Karl won for the first time in his career last year, only to get fired 29 days afterward, is the best under-the-radar race going in the NBA.
He took off his jersey, grabbed a basketball and walked back to the court with his four-year old son, Chris II, assistant coach Dave Severns and a ball boy. As Staples Center was being cleaned, Paul shot for over 20 minutes after the game from every corner of the court. Severns would direct Paul where to go, the ball boy would grab his rebounds and pass it to Paul's son who quickly passed it to his dad. The postgame routine took so long that Paul's wife, Jada, left early as did many media members waiting to talk to Paul in the postgame media room.
Chris Paul still working on his shot after the game. pic.twitter.com/q28D9FxiH9— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) March 13, 2014
As he walked into the room over an hour after the game had ended, Paul apologized as he held his yawning son's hand.
"I just knew y'all were gone," Paul said. "I'm so sorry."
Paul had 16 points, 12 assists, eight rebounds and three steals but cringed as he looked down at the box score again and saw that he was 5-for-15 from the field. That simply wasn't good enough, even after the Clippers defeated the Warriors, 111-98, to take a five-game lead atop the division with 16 games left in the season.
"I had to practice," Paul said. "During the game, you wouldn't think, but I say it all the time, I struggle with confidence and things like that. I just didn't feel like I couldn't throw it in the ocean, so I wanted to go shoot now."
It was the first time Paul has shot postgame since he has been in Los Angeles and the first time anyone can remember him doing that since 2008 when Paul was the runner-up for the MVP award and his New Orleans Hornets fell one win shy of the Western Conference finals.
Paul was 22 at the time and in his third season in the league, and he thought that every season would be like that. He'd be in a neck-and-neck race for the MVP and playing into June. The truth is, Paul has never come as close to an MVP or a title as he did that season.
Six years later, Paul is 28, a father of two, and realizes that seasons like this can't be taken for granted. Paul is playing alongside Blake Griffin, who has vaulted himself into the MVP race, for a championship coach in Doc Rivers, and has a chance to make it past the second round of the playoffs for the first time in his career.
"I don't know, it's just different this year," Paul said. "We have a special team and a special opportunity that doesn't come around very often and I have to do my part."
Rivers smiled as he sat in the interview room and heard Paul was back on the court, practicing his shot well after the game was over.
"He's pissed that he missed shots," Rivers said. "I like that. Chris is a warrior and he wants to get it right."
Paul struggled with his shot for much of Wednesday night's game. In fact, he was 2-for-11 in the closing seconds of the third quarter before he hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to give the Clippers an 84-79 lead going into the fourth quarter.
"It's funny because I told Blake we were going to run the last play," Paul said. "There was 40 seconds left and Doc said, 'I'm going to get you out so you can get some rest. This might be your only rest.' But I said, 'No coach, leave me in. I need to make a shot.' So I told Blake, 'I'm going to you on the post, they're leaving me and I'm going to make one.' Blake trusted me enough and luckily the shot went in."
Griffin wasn't surprised to hear Paul was back on the court shooting long after the game as he changed and got ready to leave the arena just as Paul returned back to the locker room from his impromptu postgame practice.
"C.P. is a leader doing something like that," Griffin said. "He puts a lot on himself and after a game where he hit big shots for him to go do that shows you how hungry he is and that's the way our whole team is. A win like this isn't a time for us to be complacent. We feel we can be much better than we are right now."
LOS ANGELES -- Golden State Warriors forward Jermaine O'Neal confronted forward Blake Griffin in the hallway outside the Los Angeles Clippers' locker room at Staples Center after L.A.'s 111-98 win Wednesday night.
The two had a heated conversation that was quickly broken up by a Clippers official who led Griffin to the adjacent news conference room.
O'Neal, 35, had dressed and was waiting outside the Clippers' locker room to talk to Griffin.
Griffin, who was walking to the news conference room to take questions from reporters, could be heard telling O'Neal to "leave that s--- on the court" before the two were separated and briefly shook hands.
With 8:55 left in the fourth quarter, O'Neal got a technical foul as he walked toward the Clippers' bench and continued talking to Griffin before O'Neal's teammates and officials directed him back to the Warriors' bench.
The games between the Clippers and Warriors have been especially physical and heated over the past two seasons, with Griffin getting ejected when they met Christmas Day.
Griffin did not care to discuss his conversations with O'Neal when later taking questions.
"Nah," he said. "That's between me and him."
LOS ANGELES -- Blake Griffin has reached plenty of milestones during his first four seasons in the NBA.
He reached another one on Wednesday as the Los Angeles Clippers beat the Golden State Warriors, 111-98. Griffin joined Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Charles Barkley as the only players to have accumulated 6,000 points, 3,000 rebounds and 1,000 assists while shooting at least 50 percent from the field.
"Wow, that's impressive," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. "I played against Kareem and Charles, and they are completely different. If three guys could be more different those three ... there is not anything that is similar about any of them. Which is amazing and it's another lesson that you can get things and do things similar in different ways."
Griffin had 30 points and 15 rebounds on the night, his franchise-best 24th straight game scoring at least 20 points. On the season, he is averaging a career-best 24.4 points and 9.6 rebounds per game.
"It just tells you how great Blake is," Rivers said. "He's awful young to be reaching milestones."
How it happened: The Warriors controlled the game from the end of the second quarter to the end of the third quarter before the Clippers finally reclaimed the lead after a 15-3 run to end the third quarter. A couple of big put-back dunks by Griffin and DeAndre Jordan helped the Clippers control the momentum and the lead in the fourth quarter as the Clippers were able to hold on for the win.
What it means: The Clippers have won a season-high nine straight games, the longest active winning streak in the league. They also took a five-game lead over the Warriors in the Pacific Division and tied the season series at two games apiece. The win also increases their lead over the Houston Rockets for the third seed by a full game and gives them a 3½ game lead over the Portland Trail Blazers. The Clippers are only three games behind the top seed in the West and two games behind the No. 2 seed.
Hits: Aside from Griffin's performance, Chris Paul had 16 points and 12 assists, and Danny Granger came off the bench to score 18 points with six rebounds. Granger made his first six shots from the field. Willie Green also had 13 points off the bench.
Misses: Not many misses on the night although the Clippers would like to get Glen "Big Baby" Davis more involved heading into the playoffs. He had only two points on 1-of-3 shooting in 14 minutes off the bench.
Stat of the game: The Clippers had 19 second-chance points compared to only three for the Warriors. L.A. also had 21 fast-break points compared to only 15 for Golden State.
Up next: The Clippers are off Thursday before traveling to Salt Lake City to play the Utah Jazz. The Clippers won their first two games against the Jazz and their most recent encounter, 102-87, in Los Angeles.
LOS ANGELES -- Blake Griffin had 30 points and 15 rebounds, Danny Granger added 18 points off the bench, and the Los Angeles Clippers surged past the Golden State Warriors 111-98 Wednesday night for their ninth straight victory.
Chris Paul had 16 points, 12 assists and eight rebounds for the Clippers, who split their four-game season series against their Pacific Division rivals with an impressive finish to a tight game.
Los Angeles has the third-longest winning streak in club history and the team's best record after 66 games (46-20).
Klay Thompson scored 26 points and David Lee had 20 for the Warriors, whose five-game winning streak ended with their fourth straight loss to the Clippers at Staples Center. Stephen Curry had just 13 points and 11 assists before sitting out the final minutes.
"Yeah, I'll be back tonight," Dudley said. "I could have gone on Monday but it was 85 [percent]. There's no pain, no restrictions. I feel good."
Dudley worked out on Tuesday and Wednesday, and he will come off the bench against the Warriors. Dudley has played in 62 games this season, starting in 42, averaging 7.3 points and 2.2 rebounds.
"It scared me a little bit the other night but we got an unbelievable training staff and they got me through," Paul said. "I will be there [Wednesday]."
Fellow guard Jamal Crawford will miss his fifth game in the past six games as he recovers from a left calf strain. Crawford said he's hoping to return Sunday or Monday.
Guard J.J. Redick has continued to increase his workout and shooting regimens this week, but there is still no timetable for his return from a bulging disk in his lower back.
It would happen almost daily. Griffin would get manhandled, get frustrated, lose his cool, and eventually lose the game he was playing.
Griffin has seen the tactic used against him more times than he cares to remember this season. It's not entirely his opponents' fault. Griffin doesn't have a first or second gear. He's constantly stuck in fourth gear. Most of us can handle someone wired like that only in small doses. And that's just in social settings. Put that kind of personality on a basketball court, where you are constantly pushing and shoving each other below the basket for four quarters, and tensions are bound to boil over at some point.
That was the case Monday night when Phoenix Suns forward P.J. Tucker was jostling with Griffin in the paint and the two players ended up on the ground, with Griffin on top of Tucker and Tucker trying to free himself by forearming Griffin in the face.
Tucker was ejected from the game and suspended one game. Griffin, as is usually the case, turned the other cheek, finished the game with 37 points on 14-of-16 shooting, and the Clippers beat the Suns.
"I just assess the play as it happens," Griffin said. "That's not to say I wasn't going to [fight back], but in the moment I don't want to put my team in a bad situation. I don't want to put myself in a bad situation. You have to weigh the pros and cons at that point. I don't know what we were up by, but I know we were up by double digits, and just to do something stupid, to get kicked out, to get suspended, doesn't help. We already have injuries; we already have guys who are banged-up. We don't need that."
Wednesday's game against the Golden State Warriors likely will be another time when Griffin's patience will be tested. No team gets under Griffin's and the Clippers' skin more than the Warriors. Griffin was ejected for the second time in his career on Christmas Day when he got into separate altercations with the Warriors' Draymond Green and Andrew Bogut.
"Blake gets hit as much as anyone in the league," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. "We have all seen it. It gets old. It really does. I think he's doing the right thing. I really do. He's doing the right thing. He puts his arms up, because if he reacts like some people say he should, he gets thrown out, gets suspended, and it hurts the team. I know it's very difficult for him, but he's doing the right thing for the team."
Griffin's ability to restrain himself and not swing back hasn't gone unnoticed by his teammates, who watch firsthand the number of hard fouls and cheap shots he takes on a nightly basis without much of a response. The Clippers are just three games away from the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference and know closing that gap would be impossible if Griffin did something to get himself suspended for a couple of games.
"I told Blake during that altercation that it's crazy being his teammate and seeing every night the different fouls and the different things that he takes," Paul said. "He sacrifices so much for us. He could have easily punched back and got to fighting, but he didn't. I don't know how he does it, but that's pretty selfless of him -- because he could do that, and now he's suspended for a few games and that hurts our team. It's huge. He's stronger than me."
There was a time when it worked to play Griffin physically and pepper him with occasional cheap shots. He would get frustrated, lose his focus and miss his free throws. Now, he smiles when players approach playing him the same way they did two years ago. Not only is he averaging a career-high 24.4 points and 9.6 rebounds per game, but he's also hitting 70 percent of his free throws. He no longer tries to avoid contact in the paint, he welcomes it.
"It's crazy what he goes through every single night," Darren Collison said. "He just keeps getting better and better regardless of who's trying to play physical with him. To me, right now it doesn't work. There's been numerous times he's been in some type of scuffle, and he continues to get better and better each game and throughout the game, as well. Blake's really showing maturity, too, by not retaliating. He's taking a lot of hits, but that's what the playoffs are going to be about. We're ready for it, he's ready for it, and we're going to continue to play through it."