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Wednesday, December 12, 2012
Rapid Reaction: Clippers 100, Bobcats 94

By Jovan Buha


Three weeks ago, the Los Angeles Clippers won a close road game against the San Antonio Spurs and, at 8-2, looked like the best team in the Western Conference.

Riding an impressive six-game winning streak, they were confident that they'd win at least three of the four games on their difficult road trip against the Spurs, the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Brooklyn Nets and the Atlanta Hawks.

San Antonio was perceived to be the most difficult stop, so the logic was that the Clippers had gotten the hard part out of the way. Except, they hadn't. The Clippers lost all of the remaining games on the road trip, and four in a row overall, dropping to 8-6 and giving critics all the fuel they needed.

Now the Clippers are in the midst of another four-game trip, albeit against less stellar competition. The Clippers won the first game once again, against the toughest opponent nonetheless.

So when asked if the Clippers would experience the same letdown on this trip after defeating the Chicago Bulls, Chris Paul had three words for Clipper doubters:

"Not this time."

Paul's words rang true for at least one more night, as the Clippers defeated the Charlotte Bobcats 100-94 in a game that was closer than expected. No matter how hard the Clippers (16-6) tried, the Bobcats (7-14) just wouldn't go away, but in the end it didn't matter. It was another victory for the Clips, who've now won eight games in a row, tying their longest such streak since moving to Los Angeles in 1984.

The Clippers will now travel to Milwaukee to take on the Bucks on Saturday, and then conclude their trip in Detroit against the Pistons on Monday.

Here are three takeaways from the game:

The unsung hero

Jamal Crawford is getting Sixth Man of the Year consideration, Eric Bledsoe has his own cult, and Lamar Odom has his own reality TV show, but Matt Barnes may be the most valuable cog off the Clippers' bench. His ability to lock down big perimeter scorers is invaluable, and he has a knack for moving off the ball and finding unforeseen crevices in the opposing defense. He tied Blake Griffin for a game-high 19 points, nailing three 3-pointers and adding two blocks for good measure. If that wasn't enough, the Clippers are now 10-1 when Barnes scores in double figures.

Pounding the paint

The Clippers are no strangers to scoring in the paint, averaging 47 points per game there, which ranks second behind the Denver Nuggets. But L.A. made it a point to go inside often and early, as 17 of their 21 field goals (34 points) in the first half came in the paint. They finished with 50 points in the paint, an already remarkable number that could've been much higher had the Clippers not missed so many close shots at the rim. Most important, Griffin continued his recent offensive resurgence with a slew of highlight dunks.

Trap game

Earlier this season, the Clippers lost a couple of games they shouldn't have, most notably against the Cleveland Cavaliers and the New Orleans Hornets. These are commonly referred to as "trap games" -- when a good team arrogantly overlooks a bad team and loses in an embarrassing fashion. With the Bobcats quickly unraveling amid an eight-game losing streak, and this being a road game, the matchup fit the bill. Yet there were no such traps Wednesday night, as the Clippers left no doubt that they were the superior ball club.