After decades of searching for relevancy and triumph, the Los Angeles Clippers have found their best shot at franchise success.
With a 111-85 win over the Milwaukee Bucks -- that wasn't as close as the final score depicted -- the Clippers set a franchise record in Los Angeles with nine straight victories. It's not the franchise's all-time record -- the 1974-1975 Buffalo Braves won 11 straight games -- but if the Clippers keep up their impressive brand of basketball, they'll be the record holders soon.
As the San Antonio Spurs and the Memphis Grizzlies are racking up losses and dropping in the standings, the Clippers are ascending in the playoff picture and nipping at the Oklahoma City Thunder's heels.
It wasn't supposed to be this easy. The Clippers weren't supposed to be able to effortlessly dispose of a Milwaukee Bucks team on a four-game winning streak. But they did, and the Clippers are now 9-0 in December with a slew of games against lesser opponents over the rest of the month.
During the Bucks' four-game winning streak, they held all of their opponents to 20 points or fewer in the first quarter. That streak was quickly broken, as the Clippers eclipsed that mark on a Willie Green 3-pointer with 3:33 remaining in the quarter, taking a commanding 22-11 lead and never looking back. There's no better way to sum up the night.
Here are three takeaways from the game:
The Clippers' starters have a tendency to get out to lackadaisical starts in the first quarter, which has made a handful of their games against lesser opponents closer than they should be. Instead of falling into bad habits, the Clippers forced the Bucks into low-percentage shots, got out in transition and controlled the glass early. DeAndre Jordan, whose offensive productivity seems to fluctuate game to game, was active from the onset, scoring eight points and looking engaged on both ends of the court.
Lob City in full effect
By sheer virtue of their world-class athleticism, the Clippers tend to amass highlight after highlight. But earlier in the season, it seemed as if some of the magic of "Lob City" had worn off. Ever since their thrashing of the Dallas Mavericks though, the Clippers have gone back to the basics: dunks and alley-oops galore. With Chris Paul seamlessly directing traffic, Jordan had a jaw-dropping tomahawk dunk in transition and Blake Griffin finished a lob on which his eyes were above the rim. The embarrassment became so bad that the Clippers' bench took their gloating down a significant notch.
One of the biggest differences from last season's squad compared to now is the Clippers' ability to shut down their opponents. The Bucks sport a below-average offense -- ranking 17th in points per game and 22nd in offensive rating per Hoopdata -- so it wasn't surprising they struggled to score against the Clippers' seventh-ranked defense. Nonetheless, the Clippers held the Bucks to just 36.1 percent shooting, an anemic number that was notably boosted in garbage time. While the lobs and crossovers may get all the attention, the Clippers are winning because of their stellar defense.