Performing his due diligence as a coach, Doc Rivers pulled out the video of the last time the Clippers faced the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The dreaded homework assignment was as difficult to endure as he expected.
“Honestly, I don’t know what I learned from that,” Rivers said. “You needed like three Diet Cokes to stay awake watching that game. That game was horrible to watch. By both teams. They were just less worse than us in that game.”
It was a little easier to watch Sunday night when the Clippers pulled together for a 102-80 victory over Cleveland at Staples Center. It came after another ailment struck the team when guard Darren Collison was a late scratch due to a stomach virus.
On his 25 th birthday, Griffin had 21 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists. Chris Paul had 16 points and 15 assists and though the Clippers made only 44.7 percent of their shots, they committed only seven turnovers and limited Cleveland to 34.9 percent shooting.
“That’s the funnest part of the game, to tell you the truth,” Paul said of the Clippers’ defense. “Yeah, it’s nice to see 3′s and dunks and stuff go in, but the most frustrating thing you can do to another team is to stop them defensively and I think that’s where we’re really making our imprint on the games, and we’re doing it at the right time.”
The Clippers were held to a season-low 82 points on Dec. 7 in Cleveland but jumped out to a 9-0 lead, kicked it up to as many as 22 points and were never seriously threatened.
The Clippers take their winning streak to Denver Monday night. It ties for the second-longest win streak in franchise history, equaling the 11 in a row Buffalo Braves won in November of 1974.
They set the club mark last season when they won 17 in a row, not that the Clippers are completely interested in the streak.
“It’s funny,” Paul said. “We went 17 last year, and right now it’s the right time of year to be playing pretty well.”
Rookie Reggie Bullock, celebrating his 23 rd birthday, got first-quarter playing time and took advantage of his opportunity. He scored six of his career-high 14 points in the opening period, helping the Clippers to a 27-18 lead.
Before he could think about playing, though, he had to sing “Happy Birthday” to Griffin. The entire team sang for Bullock.
“It’s probably like the 10 th time he’s had to do it this year,” Griffin said of Bullock’s rendition. “And it seems like he’s getting worse.”
He might have had his potential role for the night on his mind, too.
“I just thought, ‘We’ve got so many guards out, who’s going to play the 2?’ I guess I’m the next guy in line,” Bullock said. “I just try to be confident.”
And forward Matt Barnes continued his run as well. Barnes had 11 points, making it the 12 th consecutive game of scoring in double figures. Barnes entered Sunday’s game averaging 16.4 points per game in March, shooting 55.7 percent from the field and making 41.7 percent of his 3-pointers.
He took over the starting small forward duties on Jan. 20.
Paul again struggled with his shot until it mattered. He went 5-for-6 from the field and scored 11 of his points in the fourth quarter.
“He’s such a great shooter,” Rivers said. “I think there are times when he’s so focused on running the team, he comes off wide open and he’s still looking to run the team and then he’ll shoot, and those are hard shots.
“At the point guard spot, when you decide to shoot, it’s your shot. I thought he did a great job of that in the fourth quarter.”
Luol Deng led Cleveland with 23 points and Dion Waiters had 15 off the bench.
Center Spencer Hawes had 14 points and five rebounds but was ejected with 1:19 left in the game.
Another day, another ailment for the Clippers, who simply shrugged and moved on after it was announced that Darren Collison would miss Sunday’s game against Cleveland due to a stomach virus.
Collison was replacing Jamal Crawford, who is out with a calf strain. Crawford was replacing J.J. Redick, who is out with a bulging disc in his lower back.
In other words, the Clippers’ four days off after Monday night’s game in Denver are coming at just the right time, right?
Actually, Coach Doc Rivers said, the break might not mean a thing for the injured players.
“I don’t think it will be because one of them or both of them may not be ready,” Rivers said of Crawford and Redick. “I don’t think that matters that we have practice or anything for them, it’s more about getting them healthy. If they’re healthy and they could practice one or two (times), that would be a great stretch but if they’re not, it doesn’t mean much.”
Redick is getting closer and worked out on the court before the game. With Crawford, who tried to make a comeback last weekend, the Clippers are being cautious. His status of “day-to-day” stays the same from day to day.
“Jamal has one of those nasty little calf injuries that you feel like h’es getting better, but you can’t take that risk,” Rivers said. “If he goes down again with that, we may not see him. That’s a hard risk to take with him so we’ve got to be right this time.”
Instead, the break figures to benefit the players who need it most, like Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and Chris Paul.
“Yeah, that’s what the break’s good for, is Chris and Blake and DJ, even though DJ swears he wants to play 48 a night,” Rivers said. “That’s good for them. I also think the new guys (Danny Granger and Glen Davis), it gives them a chance to take a breath and get situated with their life off the floor. They’ve been thrown in and just playing games.
“For me, maybe I can go and improve my golf game for a couple days since I’m so bad at it.”
Tip-off: 6 p.m. PDT Friday, EnergySolutions Arena, Salt Lake City
TV/radio: Prime Ticket/KFWB 980, KWKU 1220
Update: With nine consecutive victories, the Clippers are on a streak they think might be a better one than pulled off last season, when they won 17 in a row last season. This team has done it while missing key parts like J.J. Redick, Jamal Crawford and Jared Dudley, yet the Clippers keep scoring and are the highest scoring team in the league. . . . Their 111-98 win over Golden State Wednesday kept them in third place in the Western Conference standings and pushed them to five games ahead of the Warriors in the Pacific Division. . . . The addition of Danny Granger is looking a lot more promising. He came off the bench to score 18 points. “It’s getting comfortable,” Granger said. “The way this offense is, is so wide open. Anybody can push the ball. Blake (Griffin) can make plays on the open court, Chris (Paul) pushes, Matt (Barnes) pushes. We have a very unique team, with the ability to have so many play makers running the floor and you have shooters running the wings. You get a lot of shots, and I made a bunch of them.”
Remember way back when – OK, last season – when the Clippers had a 17-game win streak and their bench was terrorizing the league?
Heading into Friday’s game at Utah, the Clippers are barely halfway to that 17-game mark, having won nine in a row.
But try that nine-game streak without J.J. Redick and Jamal Crawford and Jared Dudley going down with back spasms. Throw in a 13-point win over rival Golden State, and the Clippers are looking like all the parts are settling in and seemingly can only be better when the squad is full.
“We’re starting to peak at the right time,” said forward Matt Barnes, who has stepped into the starting lineup and caught fire. “You know last year we went on a winning streak, but it was like in November or December or something and it didn’t mean much.
“I think now that we’ve had so many injuries and so many ups and downs, getting guys healthy, getting guys acclimated, you know with all that being said, we are still able to win tough games, blowouts, all different kinds of ways.”
Another good sign? Coach Doc Rivers had a one-word answer for what he wants to see most out of his team.
“Health,” he said.
Five seconds into the second half, Chris Paul picked up a steal and Matt Barnes finished after Paul missed a reverse layup.
Less than a minute into the third period, the Clippers had run off six points to hike their lead to 39 points and then, finally, there were some boos for the Lakers at Staples Center.
There might not have been enough fans left by the end to release their frustration after the Clippers scored a 142-94 thrashing that was about as lopsided as any NBA game could be.
“We took a body blow and it looked like it just took us to our knees,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said. “For whatever reason, maybe we couldn’t finish and make plays or anything. They smelled blood in the water and they killed us.”
It was the Clippers’ largest winning margin in their history, eclipsing the previous mark of 45 points. The Lakers equaled the worst loss in their history.
Maybe the Clippers’ 60-20 run to close the first half was still being digested by Lakers fans who watched their team being dismantled on its own court.
It started with what brings a smile to Clippers coach Doc Rivers – defense. They held the Lakers to 39.5 percent shooting, stopped their 3-point shooting and forced 22 turnovers.
“You can feel us starting to believe in our defense and being in the right spots,” Rivers said. “What I like now is every time one of them is not there, they point at themselves right away, they know it. I would prefer them not to do that and be there, but they’re getting there and they’re taking ownership when they’re not.
“If we can get four stops five stops six in a row, there’s a chance we’re going to get a couple of fast breaks in that stretch and that’s what we’re keying it on.”
Four Clippers had double-doubles before sitting out the entire fourth quarter. The one starter who didn’t have a double-double was Darren Collison, who had to settle for being the game’s high scorer with 24 points.
The Clippers had 34 fast-break points and led by as many as 51 points.
The Lakers held a 20-13 lead midway through the first quarter when the court tilted. By halftime, the Clippers held a 73-40 advantage. That’s a 60-20 run for those scoring at home.
“Going in yelling and screaming is not going to help a lot,” D’Antoni said. “There’s nobody happy over there (in the locker room) and everybody knows they’re embarrassed.”
Blake Griffin had 20 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists and a devastating dunk off a lob from Paul that served as the evening’s exclamation point. Barnes had 17 points and 12 rebounds, DeAndre Jordan had 14 points and 12 rebounds and Paul had 13 points and 11 assists.
Only Pau Gasol, with 21 points, was doing anything for the Lakers in their era of small ball, going with shooters to surround Gasol. Xavier Henry finished with 15 points and Kent Bazemore had 14.
It seemed like all the Clippers needed was to avoid overconfidence. If they needed to hear that they actually lost to the Lakers on opening night, Rivers wasn’t going to bring it up.
“We can say that we never looked at that and that it never crossed our minds, but it did,” Collison said. “We knew this game was about us. We came out in the second half and we were up by 20-plus points, we told each other this is about us. We’ve got bigger goals right now. No disrespect to the Lakers, that’s a very good team, but we want to accomplish something big.”
It was one thing to see Griffin and Paul control their parts of the game, but Collison had 22 points midway through the third period and Barnes continued his hot streak.
In the previous six games, Barnes was shooting 51.3 percent on 3-pointers. He made two of his first four against the Lakers and was one of three Clippers with a double-double in the third period.
“Just playing free,” Barnes said of his recent outburst. “My mind was on a few different things going into the trade deadline, hearing a lot of rumors, really almost being traded and then the last minute it not happening.
“So I just decided to let all that go and go out there and play free. Whatever capacity I’m called upon I’ll be ready to do.”
Clippers center DeAndre Jordan entered Thursday’s game against the Lakers leading the league in rebounds per game (14) and field goal percentage (66.1).
If he finishes the season leading those categories, he’d be only the third player in NBA history to do it. Wilt Chamberlain did it eight times and Dwight Howard matched the feat in the 2009-10 season.
Jordan has continually given credit to Coach Doc Rivers, who not only challenged Jordan to become the defensive captain, he fulfilled his promise of keeping Jordan in the game during the fourth quarter despite his troubles at the free throw line.
While Rivers has been one inspiration, at least one of his teammates has pushed Jordan to punch up his game.
“I think it’s amazing,” forward Matt Barnes said of the year Jordan is having. “DeAndre being a close friend of mine ever since last year, I just told him ‘Start modeling your game like (Mike) Tyson. You’re more athletic, you can control the game more than he can. Model your game like him and you’re going to be all right.’
“He’s gone above and beyond the call of that and his numbers speak for themselves. He’s an anchor of our defense and it’s huge having him on the court in the fourth quarter, knocking down free throws now, but definitely protecting the paint.”
Danny Granger was dealt from Indiana to Philadelphia just before the trading deadline, then worked a buyout deal with the 76ers so he could find his way to a contender.
That meant Clippers coach Doc Rivers could continue in his ways of recruiting, and the coach gave a tongue-in-cheek description of his tactics.
“It’s very similar to back in the days where you could just give college players money,” Rivers said, trying to keep a straight face. “I think that was far more effective. I think I would have gone to several different schools if people could have recruited me that way.”
His true recruiting secret?
“You beg,” River said.
He was begging from a position of strength based on the talents of Blake Griffin and Chris Paul.
“I just remember how hard it is to defend (Griffin’s) screen and rolls, him jumping all over the place and all over people’s heads. It was very hard to defend,” Granger said. “To play with a guy like that is special and you’ve got to take advantage of the opportunity.
“I called David West (a teammate of Paul in New Orleans) before I even signed and I asked about Chris. He said he’s the most competitive guy he’s ever played with, he said if you do choose to play in Los Angeles you’ll love playing with Chris. He’ll do whatever it takes to win. He’s one of the greatest players he’s played with.”
Danny Granger has had a second home in Los Angeles for seven years and has spent the summer months working out at the Clippers training facility.
On his first day as a Clipper, he got lost.
“I got lost walking in here, I couldn’t find the players’ entrance,” Granger said with a smile. “I must have been here a thousand times playing throughout the years and I still couldn’t find the players’ entrance to drive in.
“I drove around Staples (Center) like five times.”
Then in another twist, Granger, expected to be in uniform Saturday night after signing with the Clippers on Friday, was mysteriously left off the active list coaches must produce before each game.
While all of those procedural steps figure to work themselves out, Granger and the Clippers are looking forward to what the former all-star can deliver as his personal comeback from a knee injury continues.
Granger had to be won over by Coach Doc Rivers, who was battling several other teams, including San Antonio and Miami, for his services.
“Doc is a laid-back coach. That’s really kind of a breath of fresh air in the NBA,” Granger said. “A lot of coaches are sticklers about a lot of things. His laid-back nature is very appealing.
“His style of offense — they will run you to death, they get off a lot of shots, alley oops. It’s a fun way to play. That’s always a treat especially for an offensive minded player like myself.”
The 6-foot-9 forward will be a reserve for the time being but as het becomes acclimated, he could find himself in the starting lineup by the end of the season.
That would bolster the Clippers’ bench with Matt Barnes returning to a reserve role alongside Jamal Crawford and Darren Collison, who have been pressed into starting roles by injuries.
“I have to wait and see if Danny fits with us,” Rivers said. “Ideally, yes because of his length and it would allow Matt to come off and do what he does with his energy. But Matt’s doing well right now. It will all figure itself out.”
Another game, another new player for the Clippers.
Danny Granger, once the cornerstone of the blossoming Indiana Pacers, cleared waivers Friday and signed with the Clippers, adding even more depth to a team that remains serious about building a championship contender.
His recent seasons plagued by tendinitis, Granger was traded from the Pacers to Philadelphia just before the trade deadline. He worked a buyout from the 76ers to earn his freedom, then chose the Clippers over such suitors as Miami, San Antonio, Houston and Dallas.
The 6-foot-9 Granger, who averaged 25.8 points in 2008-09 and 24.1 the next season, arrives just in time for the injury-stricken Clippers. They still don’t know when J.J. Redick will return from the bulging disc in his lower back and his replacement, Jamal Crawford, is dealing with a calf strain.
The tendinitis in his right knee caused him to miss 77 games last season and was coming off the bench this season for Indiana, which is poised to challenge Miami for Eastern Conference supremacy.
“I definitely have gotten healthy,” Granger told the team’s Web site. “Now it was just a matter of getting my game back and getting my feel and I was on track. I’m still feeling good. So, I still feel like I have a lot to offer and I like the way I’m going.”
Granger had played in 29 games this season for the Pacers and averaged 8.3 points. In 2010-11, his last real full season with Indiana, he averaged 20.5 points. Two years ago, he averaged 17 points per game in 11 playoff games.
Earlier this week, the Clippers signed forward Glen “Big Baby” Davis, who had been waived by Orlando. Davis made his Clippers debut in Wednesday’s win over Houston.
“It changes the team,” Clippers forward Blake Griffin said. “But we just try to do a good job of meshing them in and getting them in the mix as fast as possible.”
Granger said the lure of playing for Coach Doc Rivers and alongside Chris Paul was a tipping point in his choosing the player for the Clippers.
“I’m very familiar with the way Doc coaches,” Granger said. “And I think you always have a desire to play with a point guard the caliber of Chris Paul. And I think in the West it’s a really tight race out here and I just thought I would be able to help this team the most.”
Granger will wear jersey No. 33 and will be available to make his debut Saturday night at Staples Center when the Clippers take on New Orleans.
The Danny Granger chase is on and the Clippers are in the thick of it.
Granger, traded from Indiana to Philadelphia, had his contract bought out by the 76ers on Wednesday and is now free to sign.
“Of course,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers answered when asked if the Clippers are interested. Then again, so are other teams like the San Antonio Spurs, it was reported, as well as Houston, Dallas and Chicago.
“Obviously a guy with that talent, you want to look at, there’s no doubt about it,” Rivers said.
“I don’t think it is up to us. I think it will be up to Danny. I think there will be a lot of teams going after him and there should be. We’re going to have our day to talk.”