Jan 31, 2012, 2:45 AM EST
Sunday night, the Clippers went into the thin air of Denver and knocked off the Nuggets, the deepest and most steady team in the West (with the second best record in the conference).
Monday night they faced a rested Oklahoma City Thunder team and ran the team to best in the West out of the building. The final score was 112-100, but it wasn’t that close. While we were all buzzing over Blake Griffin’s latest and greatest ridiculous dunk, the Clippers were making a statement.
Chris Paul is back healthy and when you start talking about teams with a shot at the title you need to start mentioning the Clippers.
“They’re the best team we’ve played all year,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said after the thumping. “They have everything, they have a talented bench… they beat us.”
Maybe the Clippers are dark horse contenders. There are still questions about them — can you expose their lack of depth along the front line in the playoffs? Can they defend well enough in a playoff setting? Can Vinny Del Negro really coach a contender deep?
But a healthy Chris Paul — he had 26 points and 14 assists against OKC — directed the Clippers like a maestro the past two nights served notice on the league that the Clippers can play with anyone. They’re not playoff tested, but they should be feared.
Los Angeles raced out to an early lead Monday behind Caron Butler getting good looks by finding his spots on the weak side then getting the kick out when the defense had to collapse on Paul or Griffin. Butler finished with 22 and was 4-8 from three. Both Butler and D’Andre Jordan have made the Clippers so much more dangerous by moving well off the ball and finding their spots to find good looks.
“We’re trying to see what the defense is going to give you,” Chauncey Billups said. “I had a couple looks tonight that I turned down. Caron was hot, so that was my shot but I moved (the ball) on. That’s the sign of a good team, you always want to have different guys that step up and be big. Last night (in Denver) I was rolling, tonight Caron, Chris was unbelievable, there was Blake. Look, it’s tough to prepare for four or five guys.”
The key to the game was the final 1:30 of the first half. While the Clippers had been up by as many as 15 the Thunder had cut it to 6 and seemed to have the momentum.
Then Mo Williams hit a three for Los Angeles. Williams next stole the ball from Russell Westbrook and Butler knocked down a three. James Harden missed a three on the other end, the Clippers came down and it was another Williams three. Then Durant with another turnover and that led to another Billups three. And the lead was 18 again. The Thunder never recovered.
To a man, the Thunder said it was by far the worst game they had played this season, the first clunker they have had. Westbrook and Durant combined for 67 — two thirds — of the Thunder’s points, the rest of the team shot just 38 percent. Brooks was philosophical about it and says it’s going to happen. Anyone who has watched the Thunder this season knows they can play better.
But part of their off night was the Clippers, a team thrown together before the season who are starting to figure it out.
“I definitely think we’re learning,” Paul said. “We just have to keep building our identity. We can’t say we’ve arrived after winning this game.”
Dec 18, 2014, 8:15 PM EST
The Rookie of the Year race is pretty dull now, frankly.
Dec 18, 2014, 7:35 PM EST
Anthony has been advised that sitting out would be smart.
Dec 18, 2014, 6:55 PM EST
The foul was upgraded to a Flagrant 2.
Dec 18, 2014, 6:03 PM EST
The Mavs send three players and two picks to Boston.
Dec 18, 2014, 5:30 PM EST
They don’t want to give up picks.
Dec 18, 2014, 4:45 PM EST
Spurs star made same clutch shot a decade ago against Lakers
Dec 18, 2014, 4:05 PM EST
Down goes Rocky, down goes Rocky
Dec 18, 2014, 3:40 PM EST
Trail Blazers guard just waiting to check into game, when his personal space gets violated
Dec 18, 2014, 3:09 PM EST
The Warriors are +15.8 per 100 when he is on the court. They will miss him.
Dec 18, 2014, 3:03 PM EST
Celtics forward shows up Magic
Dec 18, 2014, 2:28 PM EST
Updated with Lakers’ reported offer
Dec 18, 2014, 1:36 PM EST
Trade talks for Celtics point guard heating up
Dec 18, 2014, 12:55 PM EST
Where does this rank among LeBron’s most-lopsided losses?
Dec 18, 2014, 12:22 PM EST
It would be very difficult for the Clippers to find a deal Minnesota would like.
Dec 18, 2014, 11:51 AM EST
Plenty of photos and a recap of this week’s launch event from Jordan Brand’s Terminal 23 space in NYC.
Dec 18, 2014, 11:13 AM EST
This would shake up the balance of power in the West.
Dec 18, 2014, 10:21 AM EST
It’s is the ninja turtle time of year.
Dec 18, 2014, 10:12 AM EST
He turned the table on the Clippers and dunked on them.
Dec 18, 2014, 8:00 AM EST
Don’t worry. He still got off a jumper (which he missed)
Dec 18, 2014, 2:05 AM EST
James Harden and Dwyane Wade broke the 40 point barrier.
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