Tomorrow’s story tonight …
Clippers owner Donald T. Sterling led his team with old-fashioned cheers of “Hip-Hip-Hooray,” but there were no bottles of champagne in the locker room after their 93-77 victory Wednesday over the New Orleans Hornets extended their winning streak to a franchise-record tying 11 games.
In fact, Sterling’s unusual postgame visit to congratulate the team was the only semblance of a celebration of the streak. After all, the Clippers (19-6) have greater goals in mind than matching the modest success of their ancient cousins, the 1974-75 Buffalo Braves.
“We can’t be satisfied,” point guard Chris Paul later said of the streak. “It’s great for the fans, but we can’t be satisfied. Food tastes better, music sounds better, you sleep a little better, everything is better when you’re winning. We’ve just got to keep it going.”
The Clippers will try for a franchise-record 12th straight victory when they play host to the Sacramento Kings on Friday. It’s not a streak to challenge the Lakers’ league-record mark of 33 consecutive wins, but given the team’s inglorious history, it’s something to build upon.
Then again, maybe it’s not.
“We don’t talk about the winning streak,” Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said. “It’s almost irrelevant. It’s about our enthusiasm. It’s like I tell our guys, ‘Trust your eyes, you know when you’re playing the right way.’ It’s about locking in and being focused on what we’re trying to do.”
The Clippers haven’t lost since the Hornets defeated the Nov. 26. They’ve won easily, with their starters resting for the fourth quarters of games. They’ve won a few close ones, too. They’ve won when they’ve played well from start to finish and when they’ve had their ups and downs.
Wednesday’s victory was never in doubt after the Clippers took a double-digit lead in the second quarter. They led by as many as 19 points in the third quarter and by as many as 24 in the fourth, when all of their starters except Willie Green sat and cheered for the second unit.
Paul scored 10 points and recorded the 5,000th assist of his career with the ninth of his team-leading 12 on Wednesday, a ho-hum pass to Blake Griffin for a layup and a 45-30 lead for the Clippers with 1 minute, 32 seconds remaining in the first half. Griffin was fouled and sank the free throw.
Many fans among the sellout crowd of 19,188 gave Paul a standing ovation when his milestone assist was announced on the video screens on the arena’s giant overhanging scoreboard. Some then began to chant, “CP3, CP3, CP3” Paul’s nickname.
“Oh man, it’s pretty cool,” Paul said of reaching the milestone. “I didn’t know what everyone was cheering for. Seriously. I was talking to Blake and I asked him what was going on. It’s pretty cool, especially to do it here in front of our home crowd.”
Paul then turned to Griffin and asked, “What did that mean to you?”
“He came to me and told me he needed one more,” Griffin joked as Paul, seated next to him during their customary postgame press conference, laughed heartily. “He told me, You’ve got to get fouled so the crowd can acknowledge me.”
Then adopting a more serious tone after the laughter of Paul and a room filled with reporters died down somewhat, Griffin added, “It’s cool to be a part of the end of that. It’s one of thousands, obviously. That’s definitely not the last. I’m looking forward to 10,000.”
Griffin scored a team-leading 18 points on 7-for-12 shooting and Jamal Crawford added 17 points on 6-for-14 shooting and five assists in a reserve role. DeAndre Jordan added 12 points and Matt Barnes scored 11 points and grabbed five rebounds.
Robin Lopez scored 22 points and grabbed nine rebounds for the Hornets, who lost their ninth consecutive game. Lopez scored 14 of the Hornets’ first 16 points, underscoring their lack of depth in facing a team with perhaps the best second unit in the NBA. Rookie forward Anthony Davis added 16 for New Orleans (5-20).