LOS ANGELES -- At some point the Los Angeles Clippers will develop into the kind of defensive team that Doc Rivers wants, the kind of defensive team that Rivers believes they have to become to have success in the postseason.
Until then, however, we’ll just have to sit back and enjoy this up-tempo, high-scoring brand of basketball that has embodied the Clippers early in the season.
On Monday, the Clippers defeated the Houston Rockets 137-118. So far this season, the Clippers are averaging more than 113 points per game, the best mark in the league, but also giving up more than 110 points per game, worst in the league.
The Clippers are an absolute joy to watch on offense. It’s the kind of team basketball that made Magic Johnson refer to the Clippers as “Showtime” last season. There’s Chris Paul running the point, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan racing down the center of the court and J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley waiting for open shots on the perimeter.
Paul had nine assists before the end of the first quarter, and the Clippers scored 78 points in the first half to tie a team record for points before intermission.
It’s the kind of basketball that can win you games at the beginning of the season, but Rivers knows the Clippers can’t be giving up more than 100 points per game if they hope to do anything more than win the division and 50-plus games in the regular season, as they did last season.
"We want our identity to be a defensive team," Griffin said. "That’s what we’re trying to become."
The Clippers are nowhere near that identity now, but they’re 3-1 on the season and have won three straight, two against playoff-caliber teams they might see in the postseason. The Clippers are far from a finished product, but they’ll take a fun product that’s winning games until they become the kind of team they want to be by the end of the season.
How it happened: The Clippers jumped out to a 17-point lead in the first quarter, powered by Paul’s nine assists and Redick’s 15 points. Dwight Howard, playing in his first game in Los Angeles since leaving the Los Angeles Lakers this summer, was booed every time he touched the ball and was a nonfactor in the first half after picking up three fouls in six minutes.
What it means: After a forgettable opening game against the Lakers, the Clippers continue to establish themselves among the best in the league after winning three straight and handling the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets, two teams that are considered favorites -- along with the Clippers -- in the West this season.
Hits: Paul continues to play like an MVP candidate, finishing with 23 points and 17 assists. Six other Clippers scored in double digits, including Redick, who had a game-high 26 points and Jamal Crawford, who scored 21 points off the bench.
Misses: The only big miss for the Clippers is allowing the Rockets to score 118 points and hit 50 percent of their shots. At some point, that kind of defense will catch up with this team.
Stat of the game: It’s hard to top Paul’s stat line of 23 points and 17 assists or the fact he had nine assists before the end of the first quarter.
Up next: After staying in California through the first four games of the season, the Clippers now go on the road for a three-game, four-day road trip to play the Orlando Magic, Miami Heat and Rockets. Orlando, with L.A.'s own Arron Afflalo averaging 20.8 points per game, might actually be better than some expected this season after back-to-back wins over the New Orleans Pelicans and Brooklyn Nets.