LOS ANGELES -- Doc Rivers laughed when he was asked if he was concerned about the Los Angeles Clippers before their Christmas night game against the Golden State Warriors.
He seemingly had every right to be. The Clippers had lost two straight, five of their past eight and five straight road games. They looked like a shell of the contender most thought they would be at the beginning of the season.
Not to Rivers. They looked like a team on the verge of a big win and a big run.
“I’m fine. Our team is fine,” Rivers said. “I like the way we’re starting to play. I think we’re getting close.”
If the Clippers were close to finding themselves, it looked like it would have to be on another night, as they missed 16 straight shots against the Warriors and made 16.7 percent of their shots in the first half. But an amazing thing happened while the Clippers seemingly hit everything except for the basket in the first half. They found themselves down by just one point against the best team in the NBA, and by the end of the night would claim their biggest win of the season despite shooting just 39.1 percent from the field.
They were able to break their losing streak and perhaps start a new one because of their defense and their ability to get stops on a night when they were unable to get anything going offensively. It was the type of game Rivers always reminds the Clippers they have to find a way to win in the postseason, where 115-110 games are few and far between.
“Doc says, ‘Your offense is going to fail you in the playoffs,’” said Jamal Crawford , who had a game-high 24 points off the bench. “If we get stops, we’ll have a chance. They're probably one of the best offensive teams in the league. We knew if we could get stops against them, as long as we trust each other and cover for each other, we'll be all right.”
“I thought our defense, first unit, second unit, whatever it was, I thought our defense was a lot more solid for longer stretches tonight,” said Blake Griffin, who had 18 points and 15 rebounds.
“Neither team really shot the ball well,” Rivers said. “It really came down to mental toughness, having the ability to hang in there, and we did that.”
Rivers wasn’t ready to call Christmas night a turning point in the Clippers' season, but with the Clippers playing their next eight games at home and being in Los Angeles for three weeks, it seems they might be on the verge of the run Rivers said they were close to going on.
“I don't know if this is it yet, but we won the game,” Rivers said. “It's one game. It's a bigger game during the game than one game. You can tell, but after the game, we put it in its proper place. It's just one game.”
The way the Clippers won certainly represented more than one game in the standings. There are moments during the course of a season that can help springboard a team to bigger and better things, and the second half against the Warriors seemed to represent that moment for a team that had been longing for a win like this all season.
Before beating the Warriors on Christmas night, the Clippers stumbled and failed nearly every big test before them: losing to the Spurs twice, to Memphis and their previous game against Golden State. Their biggest win of the season was against Portland last month. But that was distant memory this month as the Clippers played nine games, six of them on the road, in 12 days before returning home on Thursday.
There was one thing missing this season, and the Clippers knew it even while Rivers downplayed the significance of regular-season wins and losses.
“A signature win, right?” Crawford said smiling.
Well, Christmas night provided that and maybe more for the Clippers.
"There are games during the course of a season where, no matter what you say, it means a little bit more,” Crawford said. “Obviously, the whole country, the whole world [of the NBA] was watching this game. They're playing as good as anybody in the NBA. We're trying to continue to be consistent and get back on track, so I thought it was good.”
The Clippers aren’t the same team that got blown out by the Warriors earlier in the season. Rivers called his team soft after that game and said it would get swept if it met the Warriors in the postseason. It was the kind of tough-love criticism Rivers has avoided recently despite the team's record because he felt a game like Thursday was around the corner.
"It shows great growth," Rivers said. "We're better than we were when we played them the last time. We're just better mentally. It's the same players, but you just grow, and teams grow during the year. Sometimes you come out the gate with growth and sometimes it takes a while. This team clearly has been one of the gradual-growth teams, and you just have to ride it. You can't force it."
A win over the Warriors on Christmas night won't cure everything that has ailed the Clippers this season. It is, however, the kind of win they can build off of as they return to the practice court next week for the first time in almost a month and look to gain some ground in the West after a slow start that has them as the fifth seed but just four games back of Golden State for the top spot.
“It's a good win for us,” said Chris Paul. “I mean, it's not like everything is right or all that different type stuff, but in the West, you're just trying to get as many wins as possible, and it's a good win for us.”
LOS ANGELES -- Golden State forward Draymond Green, unhappy with a 100-86 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday night, said the Warriors "were too nice" and should have keyed more on the teams' oft-contentious rivalry.
"I don't know what the cause of it was, maybe everybody was a little too jolly, Christmas spirit," said Green, who had 10 points and 10 rebounds in 34 minutes. "But it was too nice. It was boring."
The loss was Golden State's second straight on this Los Angeles road trip, the one before it coming against the Lakers.
Against the Lakers, the Warriors defense allowed 115 points. Against the Clippers, Golden State's offense sputtered, scoring only 86 points on 80 shots.
The Warriors next play Saturday at home against Minnesota.
Green didn't believe the poor offensive performance was just about a poor shooting night, though, saying "Although we missed shots, I don't think we went at them."
Green was dissatisfied with how the Warriors played against this particular Clippers team, given their rivalry based on a history of on court altercations and a seven game series last season that the Warriors lost.
"I mean, it's no secret we don't like them, and it's no secret they don't like us," Green said by his locker. "So I don't know why the game was that nice, trying to act like we like each other and we don't. Boring game."
When asked if there was anyone on Los Angeles whom he did not respect Green said, "Absolutely. Of course there is."
The Los Angeles Clippers defeated the Golden State Warriors 100-86 on Christmas night despite shooting 39.1 percent from the field and looking destined to lose their third straight game early. The Clippers opened the game by hitting only one of their first 17 attempts, missing 16 straight, and shooting a dreadful 16.7 percent in the first quarter (4-of-24) but were somehow within two of the Warriors. They shot 27.7 percent in the first half (13-for-47) and were within one of the Warriors. By the end of the night, the Clippers would, some way, somehow, lead by as many as 20 points on their way to beating the Warriors for the first time since Game 7 of last season's first-round playoff series.
Not only does the win snap the Clippers' losing streak, but it gives them their biggest win of the season as they [prepare to play their next eight games at home.
Surprise of the night: Outside of Spencer Hawes' loud Christmas suit? The fact the Clippers took a 20-point lead on the Warriors despite shooting 39 percent in the game certainly wasn't expected. The biggest difference was the Clippers got to the free throw line nine more times and were 23-of-31 from the charity stripe while the Warriors were 12-of-22.
Problem of the night: Consistency has been an issue for the Clippers all season. They talk continually about never putting together a complete game or getting a great game by both the starters and the reserves. Well, that was certainly the case on Thursday, as the first half and the second half couldn't be more different. Maybe this three-week homestand will allow the Clippers to work on some things and put together a complete game from start to finish.
Stat of the night: The Clippers missed 16 straight shots in the first quarter, shot 39.1 percent in the game and 28.1 percent from behind the arc and still beat the best team in basketball.
Players of the night: Chris Paul had 22 points and seven assists, Blake Griffin had 18 points and 15 rebounds and DeAndre Jordan had 14 points and 12 rebounds. Jamal Crawford had 24 points and seven rebounds off the bench.
LOS ANGELES -- Jamal Crawford scored 12 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter, Chris Paul added 22 points, and the Los Angeles Clippers handed the NBA-leading Golden State Warriors their second loss at Staples Center in three days with a 100-86 victory Thursday night.
The Warriors held the Clippers to 4-for-24 shooting in the first quarter and 39.1 percent for the game, two nights after the Lakers shot 51.7 percent without Kobe Bryant to beat them 115-105. That loss ended a streak of 27 straight games by the Warriors in which they held opponents under 50 percent.
The Clippers, beginning a nine-game homestand after back-to-back losses to San Antonio and Atlanta, haven't dropped three in a row since March 29-April 1, 2013. Blake Griffin missed his first eight shots and was 5 for 16 overall with 18 points and 15 rebounds. DeAndre Jordan had 14 points and 12 boards.
James had about 553,000 votes at the Eastern Conference frontcourt spot, where New York's Carmelo Anthony ranked second and Chicago's Pau Gasol was third in the results released Thursday. Washington's John Wall topped East guards, and No. 2 was James' former Miami teammate, Dwyane Wade.
Curry had more than 549,000 votes to lead second-place Kobe Bryant among West guards. New Orleans' Anthony Davis had the most votes in the West frontcourt, followed by the Clippers' Blake Griffin and Memphis center Marc Gasol.
Voting runs through Jan. 19, and starters for the Feb. 15 game in New York will be announced Jan. 22.
“I actually like the way we’re playing,” Rivers said after the Clippers lost to the Atlanta Hawks 107-104 on Monday.
“I think we’re very close to going on an amazing run," he said. "I can feel it, and I can see it. We’re just not pulling them out right now. You just keep building."
The Clippers have been within striking distance in each of their past five losses, which have all come on the road during a stretch of eight games in 12 days, including four games in five nights in four different time zones. The Clippers had been on a nine-game win streak before this stretch, and Rivers believes the Clippers can start another streak with the team returning home to play nine straight games at Staples Center.
“I just think we’re playing well,” Rivers said. “I think we’re very close. We’re clearly scoring the ball. I think we have to fix some things defensively which are very fixable, and we’re going to go on a run.”
Rivers bristled at the notion that he should be concerned with how the team is playing and where they currently stand in the West (sixth, five games behind Golden State). Rivers has never put much stock in early regular-season results, and he’s not going to start now.
“No. I’m fine with the way we’re playing,” Rivers said. “It was a tough trip. I’m not going to over-analyze it. We lose a couple of games, and guys are tired. They played hard, and we’re in most of them. You’re not going to win them all. It’s disappointing because you lose two close ones where you had a chance to win the game, but we keep having these stretches where teams are making runs. It could be a lot of things. We’ll get it figured out.”
Rivers believes the main thing the Clippers have to figure out is how to play more consistent defense. They have given up at least 100 points in five straight games and nine of their past 11 games, and that needs to change if the Clippers are to go on a win streak when they return home.
“Our defense has to be better, especially at the beginning of the game,” Chris Paul said. “I think right now we’re just trying to outscore teams. That starts with me. I think we gave up 31 in the first quarter. That’s been consistent for us. When teams start games like that, they really start to get confidence.”
Throughout this run, Blake Griffin has said he has seen glimpses of the team the Clippers can be, but they have yet to put it all together on the same night. The same was true Tuesday in a game that was almost a carbon copy of Monday’s loss in San Antonio.
“In stretches, we’re doing some things well and doing some good things, but you have to put it all together,” Griffin said. “I am encouraged. We’re playing here and there. A loss is a loss. They feel the same way, but it’s disappointing that we were so close.”
Rivers hasn't shied from shining a spotlight on the Clippers’ difficult schedule over the past three weeks, but as he talked to reporters while the team’s flight home was delayed, he was tired of blaming the schedule and fatigue, hurdles most teams face during the course of the season.
“It is what it is. That’s OK,” Rivers said. “Adversity’s good. You get through it, and you learn from it and get tougher, so to me, bring it on. Adversity is good. Deal with it.”
Although most of the players in the Clippers locker room were frustrated Tuesday that they were so close to another win, Rivers thinks that will eventually fuel a fire that he could see being lit this week.
“At the end of the day, our guys are playing well,” Rivers said. “When you factor in fatigue and how hard they’re playing, I’ll live with this team all day. You can just feel it. It’s coming. I don’t know when, but it’s coming, and when it comes, we’re going to be in great shape.”
The Atlanta Hawks beat the Los Angeles Clippers 107-104 on Monday night to win their fifth straight -- eighth straight at home -- and 14th of their past 15 games.
The Clippers, meanwhile, completed a brutal stretch in which they played four games in five nights in four different time zones, not to mention eight games in 11 days. The Clippers lost all five of their road games and went 3-5 during the eight-game stretch.
The good news for the Clippers: They don’t have to hop on a plane for a road game until Jan. 14. The bad news? They return home to play the Golden State Warriors on Christmas Day and the Toronto Raptors two days later, the top teams in the West and East with a combined record of 45-10.
Surprise of the night: After trailing by 10 points in the second quarter, it would have been understandable for the Clippers to fold and start thinking about their flight home. Instead, they went on a 17-0 run and took a 13-point lead in the third quarter but were not able to hold on in the fourth quarter.
Problem of the night: Doc Rivers always talks about wanting to develop consistency with the second unit, but that’s not possible as long as they are solely dependent on Jamal Crawford. They have a good night when Crawford is on and struggle when he is off. On Tuesday, Crawford struggled, going 5-for-19 from the field while scoring 18 points. The rest of the Clippers' bench was just 2-of-10 from the field.
Stat of the night: The Clippers have now given up at least 100 points in five straight games and nine of their past 11 games. Not surprisingly, the Clippers are are 3-5 in their past eight games.
Players of the night: Blake Griffin had 21 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds, falling just two rebounds shy of a triple-double. Chris Paul had 19 points, seven assists, six rebounds and five steals while DeAndre Jordan had 15 points and 22 rebounds.
ATLANTA -- DeMarre Carroll scored a career-high 25 points and the Atlanta Hawks rallied from a 13-point deficit to beat the Los Angeles Clippers 107-104 on Tuesday night for their fifth straight victory.
Al Horford had 20 points for Southeast Division-leading Atlanta, which has won 14 of 15.
The Hawks held off the Clippers in a hectic final 30 seconds. After a layup by J.J. Redick, who had 18 points, cut Atlanta's lead to 104-102 with 18 seconds remaining, Kyle Korver answered with two free throws.
After Redick made two of three free throws, Korver was tied up by Matt Barnes for a jump ball with 9.5 seconds remaining. Korver won the tip and Horford made one of two free throws. Griffin missed a last-second 3-pointer.