LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Clippers will tell you their 15-game winning streak doesn’t matter. They’re not focused on it as much as the way they are playing during the streak.
It sounds like the same, old “taking it one game at a time” cliché before you talk to them some more.
“It’s really not about the streak,” said Ronny Turiaf. “Look at the way we’re winning these games. Look at the way we’re playing.”
Turiaf has a point:
The Clippers aren’t just winning games. They’re beating teams by an average of about 16 points per game during this streak. Most of these games have been over by the third quarter, allowing Turiaf and the Clippers’ bench to give the starters a rest.
It happened again Thursday night as the Clippers defeated the Boston Celtics 103-77; they were leading by as many as 32 points late.
The win not only gave the Clippers 15 straight victories but a 23-6 record, now the best in the NBA.
Here are three takeaways from the game:
A Tribe Called Bench
Truth be told, not everyone on the Clippers’ bench loves their nickname. But it doesn’t really matter. They don’t get to nickname themselves. And the Clippers’ marketing department has already made T-shirts with the name on it, so that ship has sailed. Regardless of what the Clippers’ second unit is called, there’s no disputing they are the best in the NBA right now. Once again, the bench closed out the game, allowing the starters to kick their feet up in the fourth quarter. Jamal Crawford, thought by many to be the front-runner to win the Sixth Man of the Year award, finished with 17 points and four assists, while Matt Barnes, who is having a career year, finished with 21 points. Eric Bledsoe added a season-high six steals.
Magic Johnson riled up some Lakers fans when he was talking about the Clippers this week and said, "I thought I would never, ever see Showtime again. And I was the architect of Showtime. The Clippers? That's Showtime. They’re the greatest show on Earth." Magic may be on to something. Not only are the Clippers rolling teams and putting on an aerial show better than anything seen during All-Star Weekend, but Hollywood is beginning to take notice. Maybe the biggest indicator of how popular the Clippers are getting in Los Angeles is that while Chris Paul was taking on the Celtics on the court, his son, Chris Jr., was sitting on Justin Bieber’s lap courtside. In the previous game, Kim Kardashian and Kanye West were sitting courtside to watch Lamar Odom. It may not be Jack Nicholson and Denzel Washington, but it may be a step up from Billy Crystal and Penny Marshall.
Balance and options
One of the interesting things about the Clippers’ streak is that it isn’t being paced by one or two players. On most nights, no Clipper is putting in more 20 points. Against the Celtics, no Clippers starter scored more than 15 points or played more than 26 minutes (outside of Willie Green, starting because Chauncey Billups is out). Chris Paul (eight points and 11 assists) and Blake Griffin (15 points and eight rebounds) did their job early. And soon after the second team came in, Jamal Crawford and Matt Barnes took over and blew the game wide open. It’s a model of success the Clippers have used frequently during their hot streak.