LOS ANGELES -- It took the Los Angeles Clippers four tries but on Wednesday after losing their previous three games, they won their 50th game of the season and moved within one win, or a Golden State Warriors loss, of winning the Pacific Division.
Never before in team history had the Clippers won 50 games in a season or won the division, and the significance of that wasn't lost on Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro before the game when he said accomplishing both this week would be "special."
After losing four of their last five games, the lowly Phoenix Suns were the perfect remedy to what had been ailing the Clippers. The Clippers destroyed the Suns, 126-101, in a game that was never close after halftime as the Clippers dominated in every way imaginable.
Here are three takeaways:
That's their DJ
DeAndre Jordan responded to one of the worst games of his career by having one of the best games of the season, putting up 20 points and 12 rebounds in just 30 minutes. Jordan, who was 0-for-2 for no points and 5 rebounds in the Clippers' loss to the Indiana Pacers on Monday, was a force throughout Wednesday's game, hitting 10 of 15 shots and helping the Clippers jump out to a 28-point lead in the second half. This is the kind of game the Clippers would love see from Jordan heading into the playoffs. He may never be a consistent 20-10 player, but he has the talent and ability to be that kind of player, which is why the Clippers are paying him $43 million over four years.
When the Clippers were at their best earlier in the season, their high-flying second unit was powered by the backcourt of Eric Bledsoe and Jamal Crawford. Injuries to both players over the second half of the season hurt their progress, but on Wednesday both players reverted to their old ways as Crawford had 13 points on 5-of-10 shooting with four assists and Bledsoe had 17 points on 8-of-14 shooting with seven assists. Other bench players stepped up as well including Ryan Hollins, who had seven points before getting ejected after a minor altercation with Goran Dragic in the third quarter. He received a standing ovation from the Staples Center crowd and his teammates on his way back to the locker room.
No one has been put in a more awkward position this season than Willie Green, who was brought in to be a backup point guard and hold Chauncey Billups' spot as the starting shooting guard. A variety of injuries and setbacks to Billups has made him available to start only 20 games. Green has started the other 56 games. When Billups returns, Green quietly goes back to the end of the bench and doesn't play. It's a thankless position, but Green's play this season is a big reason why the Clippers have won 50 games. On Wednesday, Green scored 15 points on 7-of-10 shooting in just 19 minutes. As Del Negro said about Green, "You never have to worry about Willie. He's the first one in and the last one out. Willie's a pro."