Tell Chris Paul about one of the Los Angeles Clippers’ long road losing streaks against a particular opponent and his face will light up.
Paul loves ending those streaks. Looking at the results this season, it’s clear he’s been successful in his quest to rebrand the Clippers’ image. The Clippers have ended their road losing streaks against the San Antonio Spurs (17), Utah Jazz (16), Dallas Mavericks (10), Denver Nuggets (9) and Los Angeles Lakers (9).
With Friday night's 105-89 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers, Paul and the Clippers snapped a 10-game losing streak in Cleveland, dating back to March 20, 2002. Back then, Elton Brand was the Clippers’ franchise cornerstone and Andre Miller was the Cavaliers’ point guard of the future.
But tonight’s game meant more than that. The Cavaliers came to Staples Center in early November and beat the Clippers in a 108-101 shootout behind 28 points from rookie Dion Waiters. Tonight, Waiters was still potent (17 points on 6-of-11 shooting, six assists), but it wasn’t enough. The Clippers got their revenge.
Paul wasn’t at his best offensively, scoring just 11 points on 4-of-11 shooting, but he made up for it with 15 assists and by trusting his teammates to make big plays. His young counterpart, Kyrie Irving, did not play for the third game in a row, which certainly gave the Clippers a significant advantage.
This three-game stretch, including Sunday’s home game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, was supposed to be one of the toughest stretches of the Clippers’ season. With two relatively easy wins in Indiana and Cleveland, the Clippers have shown they’re up for the challenge and ready to battle the Thunder for the second seed in the West.
Here are three takeaways:
Supporting cast steps up
The Clippers pride themselves on having a deep roster, and tonight served as another example of the luxury their depth provides. While Paul and Blake Griffin combined for only 27 points, the rest of the Clippers’ supporting cast helped pick up the slack and carry the offensive load. Jamal Crawford scored 24 points, Lamar Odom added 10 points and seven rebounds and an active DeAndre Jordan also chipped in 10 points. Whenever the Clippers needed a bucket, they found the answer -– just not from who you would expect.
3-point woes continue
It’s probably nothing to be concerned about long-term, but the Clippers continued to shoot poorly from beyond the arc (7-of-25 tonight, 28 percent). That’s an improvement over last night’s game against the Indiana Pacers (4-of-23, 17.4 percent) but still not what you want to see from a team stocked with shooters. The Clippers will bounce back, but it remains to be seen how they’ll counterbalance their 3-point struggles if they arise in the playoffs. As the past two games show, the response shouldn’t be to just keep shooting.
Besides their lack of 3-point shooting, the Clippers were impressive in every facet of tonight’s game. They won the boards (39-32), shot better than 50 percent (51.8 percent), dished out 26 assists, turned the ball over only 10 times and added 10 steals and nine blocks for good measure. After the disappointing losses to Miami and San Antonio, critics clamored that the Clippers had no shot at making the Western Conference finals, let alone the NBA Finals. A win over the Thunder on Sunday, coupled with their current five-game winning streak, would change that.