Los Angeles Clippers: Kings

Rapid Reaction: Clippers 97, Kings 85

December, 21, 2012
12/21/12
10:07
PM PT


LOS ANGELES -- Jamal Crawford didn't know much about the Buffalo Braves. He still doesn't. When he was asked before Friday's game what he knew about the 1974-75 Braves team that won 11 consecutive games, he smiled, shrugged his shoulders and said, "Bob McAdoo? I know that. He was a great scorer on that team."

Crawford was being asked about the 1974-75 Braves because that was the last team in Clippers franchise history that won 11 straight games. On Friday night, the Los Angeles Clippers erased that record and went one better, winning their 12th straight game with a 97-85 win over the Sacramento Kings.

"One day," Crawford said. "Hopefully someone else will be asked about this team if they come close to breaking our record."

Here are three takeaways from the game:

Sloppy play

Despite notching their 12th win a row, the Clippers played far from a solid game. They had 11 turnovers in the first half and finished with 20 turnovers. Time after time, a fast break was stalled by a bad pass or a poor decision. It was perhaps the first time this season that the Clippers' "Lob City" nickname got in the way of the team's performance as a handful of lob passes were poorly timed or simply not anticipated by the intended target. The Clippers were able to overcome their mistakes because the Kings finished with 17 turnovers of their own, but the Clippers can't play the way they did Friday and expect their streak to continue for much longer.

Griffin and Paul

During the Clippers' winning streak, Blake Griffin and Chris Paul haven't had to play like All-Stars. In fact, they haven't even had to play much, or at all, in the fourth quarter. But on Friday, Griffin and Paul showed why they could both again be All-Star starters this season. Griffin finished with 21 points and 13 rebounds and Paul finished with 24 points and 13 assists. The tandem connected on a couple of highlight-reel plays in the first half and helped calm the team late. The two not only helped the Clippers jump out to a 17-point lead but had to return to the game in the fourth quarter to help close out the Clippers' historic win after the bench struggled down the stretch.

Bledsoe shines

There are plenty of athletic players on the Clippers, but if you were to take a poll in the locker room, the player who would be named the Clippers' most athletic is Eric Bledsoe. Of all the highlight-reel plays the Clippers have had this season -- and there have been plenty -- Bledsoe's block from behind on a Thomas Robinson dunk in the second quarter was maybe the most impressive of them all. It was reminiscent of a similar block Bledsoe had on Dwyane Wade earlier in the season, and once again reinforced Bledsoe's reputation as being the best shot-blocking guard in the NBA. It's a nice title Bledsoe can now add to already being the most athletic player on a team which boasts Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.

Clippers aim to be more consistent

November, 30, 2012
11/30/12
2:36
PM PT
LOS ANGELES – Caron Butler remembers when he was on the other side of the equation.

He remembers being on teams that were basically out of playoff contention almost as soon as the season began. They weren’t going to win many games but the recipe for the games they actually did win was quite simple.

The first 12 minutes of the game would let them know if they were actually going to play a full 48 minutes or simply go through the motions for the last 36 minutes.

“I played in Washington on some good teams and then I played there when it was chaos,” Butler said. “We just tried to make it to the ballgame and get through it. In the beginning of a game if teams gave us life we fed off that momentum.”

This season, the Los Angeles Clippers have continually given lesser teams life in the first quarter and have not only found themselves in close games late but on the losing end at times. It’s an odd trend for a team that has racked up wins over the Memphis Grizzlies, San Antonio Spurs, Miami Heat, Atlanta Hawks and Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center but have also lost games to the New Orleans Hornets and Cleveland Cavaliers in the same building.

“You have to tip your hat off to the Hornets and the other teams we feel we had an opportunity to beat but they’re not just going to give it to us,” Butler said. “We’re a big game. We’ve done some great things early this season and guys are really looking forward to Los Angeles and playing against us.”

Despite their big wins early in the season, Wednesday’s 101-95 win over Minnesota was the Clippers’ first win over a below .500 team and even that was a struggle as the Clippers were trailing late in the fourth quarter. As much as the Clippers have talked about approaching games against lesser teams with the same intensity as they do playoff contenders, it’s apparent in the first quarter that it’s easier said than done for this team. Against Golden State, Cleveland, New Orleans and even against Minnesota, the Clippers were trailing after the first quarter and ended up being in closer games than they anticipated; losing each time except for Wednesday.

On Saturday night, the Clippers will once again be tested when they face the 4-10 Sacramento Kings. Sacramento's a team that should be easy to defeat on paper but is exactly the kind of team that has proven to be the Clippers’ toughest opponent this season.

“It’s about consistency,” Butler said. “You have to approach every game the same. It’s hard to do that but it’s a mindset. Your disposition has to be the same, night in and night out. I learned that from Pat Riley a long time ago. Teach good habits and hopefully it will trickle down to the younger guys. They’re getting it. They understand that we have a big bull’s eye on our back . . . We have a lot of televised games. We have to be ready for that opportunity.”

It’s a new situation for many of the younger players on the Clippers this season. Players like Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and Eric Bledsoe have never been in this position before. The Clippers might not have done anything yet on the court to deserve this target, but their reputation has made them one of the bigger names on the schedule for opposing teams, especially lesser squads looking to make a splash by beating the Clippers.

“Last year we were just trying to go and make a statement and let everybody know that we’re for real,” Butler said. “This year, with so many new additions and the way we started out with so many televised games and being a team that was praised early we are a team with a huge bull’s eye on our back now. We have to prepare night in and night out and understand that and I think going through adversity will help us out a lot.”

When a reporter half-jokingly asked Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro recently if his team was afraid of getting good by playing down to their opposition at times, he smiled and half-jokingly agreed.

“Afraid of getting good . . . I like that,” Del Negro said. “A lot of guys haven’t had a bull’s eye on their chest and there’s a responsibility that goes with that.”

It’s a responsibility the Clippers are still learning to handle as they adjust to their new role as targets this season.
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Clippers

Griffin rubbing many the wrong way

April, 8, 2012
4/08/12
12:00
AM PT

LOS ANGELES -- It should come as no surprise Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin is starting to feel the backlash this season of the fame and notoriety he enjoyed last season.

The only thing we like better than the story of a breakout player is the subsequent story of said player’s downfall. In the case of Griffin, it’s not so much a story of his downfall but how one of the most popular players in the league last season has turned into arguably the most polarizing one this season, at least amongst many of his peers around the league.

“I’ve heard that,” Griffin said with a smile after the Clippers beat the Sacramento Kings 109-94 on Saturday. “It’s not something I embrace or try to do. It just kind of happens. I’ve seemed to have had a good week as far as that goes.”

Griffin’s week included dunking on Los Angeles Lakers forward Pau Gasol so harshly on multiple occasions Wednesday night that the Lakers asked the NBA to review the plays. The league eventually decided Griffin’s third quarter shove from behind on Gasol deserved to be a flagrant-one foul.

“I don’t know about that one,” Griffin said about the league's upgraded foul. “I don’t know about that one. I felt it was kind of a nudge and then some extra after that. I just kind of sold it but if you send it in that many times and say enough about it I guess it forced their hands to do something.”

His week continued on Thursday night when he was called an “actor” by Kings forward DeMarcus Cousins after the two got into a shoving match and nearly traded blows.

“I first heard about it from my acting coach, he sent me an e-mail,” Griffin joked after Saturday’s game, responding to Cousins' comments for the first time. “He was obviously thrilled. It was a compliment. I guess he’s seen some commercials and stuff and I appreciate it.”

(Read full post)

What to watch: Clippers-Kings

April, 6, 2012
4/06/12
6:16
PM PT
Clippers (33-22) vs. Sacramento Kings (19-36) at Staples Center, 7:30 p.m. PT

Five storylines to track:

1. Hollywood Griffin: The main storyline in this game is pretty easy. All eyes will be focused on Blake Griffin and DeMarcus Cousins after the two shoved each other, and nearly came to blows in the Clippers' 93-85 win over the Sacramento Kings on Thursday night. After the game, when Griffin refused to discuss the incident, Cousins said, “Of course that's what Blake is going to say because he's in L.A., where actors belong. He's an actor, so of course he would say that." When Cousins was asked about his fifth foul on Griffin with more than a minute left in the game, he said, “I guess the wind from my hand hit him in the eye and I guess he got fouled by the wind. I'm not sure.” Needless to say there may be some unfinished business between the two 48 hours later.

2. Foye on fire: Clippers guard Randy Foye has gone from being viewed as the weak link in the starting lineup, to one of the group’s most consistent performers. He continued his strong run of late in Sacramento on Thursday, scoring a game-high 20 points (7-of-17 from the field and 5-of-5 from the free-throw line). Foye has now led the team in scoring in two of the last three games, and is the Clippers second leading scorer behind Griffin in the last six games. In the last six games, Foye is averaging 17.5 points while shooting 45.2 percent from the field and 40.4 percent from beyond the arc.

3. Butler doing it: Foye isn’t the only starter who has picked up his production over the last six games. Over the same stretch, Caron Butler is averaging 14.8 points and 2.0 rebounds while shooting 52.3 percent from field. In the last two games, Butler is shooting 51.7 percent (15-of-29) from the field and 50.0 percent (6-of-12) from three-point range. Butler scored a season-high 28 points on Wednesday against the Lakers, going 9-of-18 from the field, 4-of-8 from beyond the arc and 6-of-6 from the free-throw line while grabbing 4 rebounds in 34 minutes. It was the most points for Butler since he had 30 on Dec. 30, 2010 when the Dallas Mavericks. It was the first time this season Butler has had over 25 points for the Clippers.

4. Blake trending down: Griffin had 14 points (7-of-11 from the field and 0-for-4 from the free-throw line) and nine rebounds on Thursday against Sacramento. It was the third straight game Griffin has scored under 16 points. It is the longest streak of his career that Griffin has not scored 16 or more points. Griffin, however, is still the only player this season in the NBA averaging over 20.5 points, 11.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists. Griffin is also shooting 53.8 percent from the floor. In the last 22 years since the 1990-91 season, only four different players have finished a season averaging at least 21 points, 11 rebounds, three assists while shooting over 51 percent from the field. Griffin would be the youngest player to reach those numbers at 23.

5. CP3 to the rescue: In five of his last seven games, Chris Paul has had as many as 10 assists with two or fewer turnovers. No player has had more games with such totals this season. Paul has helped the Clippers rank third in the NBA with 13.36 turnovers per game and are on pace to set the record for the lowest turnover average in franchise history. The lowest turnover average in franchise history was set by the 2007-08 Clippers, who averaged 14.3 turnovers per game. Last season, the Clippers finished the season averaging 16.3 turnovers. Paul has also been a closer for the Clippers this season. In the last five minutes of games with the Clippers within 5 points, Paul is third in the NBA with 119 points.

What to watch: Clippers-Kings

April, 5, 2012
4/05/12
2:34
PM PT
Clippers (32-22) vs. Sacramento Kings (19-35) at Power Balance Pavilion, 7 p.m. PT

Five storylines to track:

1. Starting over: The Clippers will attempt to start a new winning streak Thursday against the Kings after they had their six-game winning streak snapped on Wednesday against the Lakers. It was the team’s longest winning streak since March 18-31, 1992. The Clippers also had a seven-game home winning streak broken in the loss. The Clippers hadn’t won seven straight since 1991. Despite the loss, the Clippers are still 10 games over .500 (32-22). It is only the third time that the Clippers have been more than five games over .500 this many games into a season since moving to Los Angeles in 1984. They finished the season eight games over .500 in 1991-92 and 12 games over .500 in 2005-06. Those are the only two seasons in which the Clippers finished over .500 since moving to L.A. The Clippers’ 32-21 record this season after 53 games is also the second best in franchise history, trailing the 1974-75 Buffalo Braves who were 34-19 after 53 games.

2. Butler did it: If there is an X-factor on the Clippers this season, it’s Caron Butler. The Clippers are 18-9 when he scores 13 or more points and 12-7 when he had 5 or more rebounds. Against the Lakers, Butler scored a season-high 28 points, going 9-of-18 from the field, 4-of-8 from beyond the arc and 6-of-6 from the free-throw line, while grabbing 4 rebounds in 34 minutes. It was the most points Butler has scored in a game since he had 30 on Dec. 30, 2010 as a member of the Dallas Mavericks. It is the first time this season Butler has had over 25 points for the Clippers.

3. Clutch CP3: Clippers guard Chris Paul had 22 points and a season-high 16 assists against the Lakers on Wednesday. It was his 124th career game with at least 20 points and 10 assists and the most assists in a game for Paul since Jan. 26, 2011 when he had 17 for the New Orleans Hornets. It was the 17th time in Paul’s career that he has had 20 or more points and 16 or more assists and the first time since Dec. 18, 2009 when he had 30 points and 19 assists in a win over Denver. Paul is the only player in the NBA this season to average over 19.0 points and 9.0 assists per game and 2.0 steals.

4. Playoffs?: Perhaps the biggest fallout from the Clippers’ loss to the Lakers was where it put them in the race for the Pacific Division. Even if they beat the Kings in Sacramento on Thursday, they will be two full games behind the Lakers, who now hold the all-important tie-breaker if they finish with the same record. Suddenly their goal now with 12 games left in the season will be to secure the No. 4 seed and at least have home court advantage in the first round. If the Clippers beat the Kings they will be two games up on the Grizzlies and Mavericks and three games up on the Rockets and Nuggets.

5. Dunk City: After Blake Griffin’s two highlight reel dunks on Pau Gasol last night, he now has 154 dunks, the most in the NBA by 21. Clippers center DeAndre Jordan is third in the league with 116 dunks. Jordan is the only player in the NBA to have at least 115 dunks and 115 blocks this season. As a team the Clippers have recorded 82 alley-oop dunks this season, most in the NBA, followed by the Lakers with 70 and the Knicks with 59. The Clippers also have recorded the most dunks this season with 318.

What to watch: Clippers-Rockets

March, 3, 2012
3/03/12
8:46
PM PT
Clippers (21-13) vs. Houston Rockets (21-16) at Toyota Center, 6 p.m. PT

Five storylines to track:

1. Breaking bad: Before the Clippers left Los Angeles for their six-game road trip, they dismissed any notion that they had gotten into a rut when it came to closing out games late. After finding ways to pull out close games earlier in the season, the Clippers had seen late leads vanish against San Antonio, Golden State and Minnesota. “If this happens in Sacramento and the next game, then I have something to worry about,” Clippers guard Chris Paul said. “It's something that can be corrected. ... I'm not panicking.” Well, it didn’t happen against Sacramento, but it did happen against Phoenix and now the Clippers have lost four of their last six games and are 6-6 since losing Chauncey Billups for the season last month. If the Clippers don’t turn things around against Houston on Sunday, there will be plenty for Paul and his teammates to be worried about at the midway point of their 10-day road trip.

2. Bench rising: After getting outscored by the Timberwolves’ bench 72-11 on Thursday, the Clippers’ much-maligned bench has stepped up their production in the last two games. The Clippers bench, which is averaging 22.9 points this season, scored 32 points against Phoenix and 41 points against Sacramento. The biggest difference has been the increased output from Clippers forward Kenyon Martin, who is shooting 61.1 percent from the field and averaging 11.0 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.0 blocks in the last two games. Clippers guard Mo Williams, who is a candidate for the Sixth Man of the Year award, is averaging 15.5 points and 4.0 assists over the last two games while shooting 63.6 percent (7-of-11) from beyond the arc and 44.4 percent (12-of-27) from the field.

3. Second-half switch: Although the Clippers have failed to close out games recently, the reason they have even been in most of their games has been the play of Paul in the second half. In the last seven games, Paul has scored 59.1 percent of his points in the second half. During that span he has scored 94 of his 159 points in the final 24 minutes of the game. Paul scored a season-high 36 points at the beginning of this stretch against Portland and scored 12 of his 16 points against Phoenix on Friday in the last two quarters. Paul says he likes to get his teammates involved in the first half, but he may have to spread his scoring out more evenly so the Clippers don’t have to rely on him so much late in games.

4. Butler’s not doing it: In the Clippers' last seven games Caron Butler's production has dropped off considerably from his form earlier in the season. He is averaging just 8.1 points per game during that stretch while shooting 32.3 percent (23-of-71 FG) from the field and 11.7 percent (2-of-17) from beyond the arc. Not coincidentally, the Clippers are 3-4 in their last seven games. Butler had averaged 15.3 points through his first 25 games with the Clippers while shooting 44 percent from the field and 38.6 percent from 3-point range and hit double-figures in 22 of those 25 games. Since Billups was lost for the season last month, however, Butler simply hasn’t been the same. He no longer gets the same open looks on the weakside he did when Billups was penetrating the gaps and causing defenses to respect him.

5. A thin line: One of the biggest reasons the Clippers have struggled to score in their last two games is they have struggled just to get to the free-throw line. Against Sacramento and Phoenix, the Clippers shot a combined 17 free throws. Just as surprising as that number, however, is that the Clippers, normally a poor free-throw shooting team, hit 16 of those free throws (94.1 percent). The bigger problem is that the Clippers’ opponents have shot 35 more free throws than them during this stretch. Since the 1985-86 season, the Clippers have attempted nine or fewer foul shots in a game just 15 times, and never before in back-to-back games. The Clippers are 1-14 when shooting under 10 free throws, with their lone win coming against Sacramento on Thursday.

What to watch: Clippers-Suns

March, 2, 2012
3/02/12
10:46
AM PT
Clippers (20-12) vs. Phoenix Suns (15-20) at US Airways Center, 7:30 p.m. PT

Five storylines to track:

1. The list: When the Clippers go on the road, Chris Paul has asked longtime Clippers announcer Ralph Lawler to inform him when the team goes up against an opponent with a long winning streak against the Clippers, or if they are playing in a building the team has had a long losing streak in. Well, Lawler will likely go up to Paul during shootaround Friday and let him know the Clippers haven’t won in Phoenix since 2007 and have only beaten the Suns twice since then (both at Staples Center). The Clippers have already snapped similar streaks in Orlando, Denver and Utah this season. They came into Sacramento having lost 23 of 26 in the state’s capital before pulling out a win Thursday night.

2. Bench mob: No group of players were more criticized after the Clippers’ loss to Minnesota on Tuesday than the Clippers’ reserves who were outscored 72-11 by the Timberwolves’ bench. The Clippers’ second unit responded Thursday in Sacramento by outscoring the Kings’ bench 41-27. The biggest surprise was the 13 points scored by recently signed forward Bobby Simmons, who hadn’t scored in an NBA game since 2009. Simmons was signed to a 10-day contract Monday and will likely stick with the team for the rest of the season if he can continue to provide a spark off the bench. The only player that has been able to score consistently with the second unit this season has been Mo Williams, who scored 18 points on Thursday and has accounted for over 50% of the bench scoring this season.

3. Back-to-back: The Clippers will be playing 11 back-to-back games including one back-to-back-to-back set in the second half the season beginning with Friday’s game against the Suns. That might not be such a bad thing for the Clippers who are 6–2 in the second game of those back-to-backs this season, which is the fourth best record in the NBA, behind the Bulls (10–2), Hawks (7–2, and Thunder (10–3). The Suns, who played Thursday night as well, are 5-5 on the second night of back-to-back games and are also 0–4 this season in games against teams that currently lead their division, having lost to the 76ers, Thunder, Spurs, and Bulls. The Clippers currently lead the Pacific division over the Lakers by one game.

4. Butler’s back: After shooting 31.5% from the field (12-of-38) in his last four games going into Thursday, Caron Butler scored 13 points on 5-of-11 from the field against Sacramento. Butler had only made 1-of-14 from beyond the arc but hit a three-pointer in Thursday’s win. The Clippers will need Butler to play a bigger role in the offense during this six-game road trip to take some of the load off of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, who have had to carry this team offensively since Chauncey Billups was lost for the season last month. The Clippers are now 6-5 without Billups after starting the season 15-7 with him in the starting lineup.

5. Lob City: Paul has 24 alley-oop assists this season, which ranks him second in the league to John Wall (26). To put that number in perspective, Paul had half as many alley-oop assists (12) all of last season with the New Orleans Hornets. Interestingly enough, DeAndre Jordan (15) has been the recipient of more of those lob dunks than Blake Griffin (9) so far this season. On the season, Griffin leads the league with 99 dunks while Jordan is fifth with 77. They are the only teammates in the top ten on the list.

What to watch: Clippers-Kings

March, 1, 2012
3/01/12
12:35
PM PT
Clippers (20-12) vs. Sacramento Kings (12-22) at Power Balance Pavilion, 7 p.m. PT

Five storylines to track:

1. “Winning time”: That’s what Chris Paul calls the fourth quarter. The Clippers’ leader and point guard prides himself on closing out games in the final period, which makes the team’s last three losses especially hard for him to swallow. The Clippers have lost three of their last four games and in each one they had the lead in the fourth quarter and failed to pull out a win. Paul deserves some blame -- costly turnover against the San Antonio Spurs and inability to score late against the Golden State Warriors hurt -- but against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday, the blame fell on the entire team. Even before the loss to Minnesota the Clippers said the biggest area of concern for the team in the second half of the season was shoring up their defense and it's apparent that is still a work in progress after letting Minnesota score 36 points in the fourth quarter on 78.6% shooting.

2. Third wheel: If the Clippers are to be serious contenders in the Western Conference down the stretch and into the postseason they will need to find a dependable third scorer outside of Paul and Blake Griffin in the starting lineup. In the Clippers’ last two games, Griffin and Paul have scored 120 points on 61% shooting while the rest of the team has only scored 80 points on 35% shooting. They’re basically getting nothing but bad shots from every other player not named Chris or Blake. The biggest problem for the Clippers outside of the loss of Chauncey Billups for the season last month has been the steady decline of Caron Butler’s numbers recently. Butler scored 11 or more points in 22 of his first 25 games but has scored less than 11 in three of his last four games, including a 2-point performance on Tuesday, making only one of his 10 attempts.

3. No benchmark: One of the Clippers’ most glaring weaknesses this season has been their bench. That is largely why Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro refuses to put Mo Williams into the starting lineup even though he’s been the team’s third best scorer for much of the season. Williams is basically the only player on the Clippers’ bench that can score consistently. Williams is averaging 13.3 points and 3.4 assists this season, the next most productive player on the Clippers bench is recently signed forward Kenyon Martin who is averaging 4.5 points and 4.0 rebounds. This season, the Clippers bench has scored a total of 706 points, with Williams accounting for 52.9% of that production. No game better highlighted the Clippers' lack of depth more than the Minnesota loss when the Timberwolves’ bench outscored the Clippers’ reserves 72-11.

4. Road warriors: Thursday night begins a brutal month and brutal second half to the season the season for the Clippers. They will play 20 games in 31 days in March and open the month with six road games in nine days. The Clippers have played well on the road this season, winning 7 of their last 10 games away from home and winning five of those games by coming back from double-digit deficits. It’s an impressive run considering the Clippers have never finished above .500 on the road in franchise history but the team’s stretch of road games in March and in April where they play nine of 14 games on the road will likely make or break their season. “It is a tough schedule but we need everyone to be ready,” Del Negro said. “The games are going to come at us quick and we’re going to have to handle the schedule the best as possible.”

5. Homecoming: When the Sacramento Kings announced they would be staying in Sacramento after tentatively agreeing with the city to build a new arena, no one was happier than Del Negro. He was drafted by the Kings in 1988 and played in the first ever game at the old Arco Arena in Sacramento as a rookie. “Sacramento has always had great fans,” Del Negro said. “That was a new building years ago and now it’s an old building obviously but they’ve been trying to get the arena situation figured out over there for a while but Sacramento was a good city when I was there years ago.” As much as Del Negro might have fond memories of the building, it hasn’t been the easiest place to play for the Clippers, who have lost seven of eight and 23 of 26 in Sacramento heading into tonight's game.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Blake Griffin
PTS AST STL MIN
21.6 4.1 0.6 35.1
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsD. Jordan 11.4
AssistsC. Paul 9.7
StealsC. Paul 2.0
BlocksD. Jordan 2.1