Remember when the dream scenario for the Clippers was meant to be Jamal Crawford and Matt Barnes leading the charge off the bench?
As starters on Sunday, the duo combined for 60 points and the Clippers continued their three-game road trip with 125-117 win over Oklahoma City. They play in New Orleans on Monday night, then come home to face Houston on Wednesday.
The Clippers avoided losing three straight games for the first time this season.
Crawford had five 3-pointers and 36 points and Barnes made six shots from long range and scored 24 points. Blake Griffin had 20 points, seven rebounds and six assists. DeAndre Jordan had 18 points and 12 rebounds.
The Clippers withstood a 42-point, 10-assist game from Kevin Durant of the Thunder, who played without center Kendrick Perkins.
The Clippers made 13 3-pointers and are now 24-0 this seasopn when making nine or more.
“It’s important for us, it’s a part of our game that hasn’t really come through a lot this year but it did tonight,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “We stretched the floor pretty well. It’s funny trying to get Matt to run to the corners like that all year and now he’s actually doing it and that’s a good shot for him.”
The Clippers are still awaiting the return of guard J.J. Redick, who is out with a bulging disc in his lower back. That would push Crawford to the second unit.
The Clippers declined to sign Sash Vujacic to another 10-day contract, particularly with Thursday’s trade deadline approaching, but that doesn’t preclude the former Laker from getting another shot.
“With the trade deadline, we didn’t want to use another 10-day,” Coach Doc Rivers said. “I liked him and you never know if we return to that or not.”
It’s the time of year all teams have a few players looking around extra intently as rumors swirl, but the Clippers are confident that they’ll keep their focus.
“(It can distract) somewhat if you pay a lot of attention to I,t but we have a lot of mature and older veteran guys on the team to where we know this is a business,” Clippers center DeAndre Jordan said. “Nobody wants to get moved around like that, but that’s the NBA.”
The All-Star break wasn’t exactly the healing salve the Clippers had hoped it would be for J.J. Redick.
The veteran guard, who had what the Clippers were calling a hip injury that cost him the previous four games, actually has a bulging disc in his lower back. So instead of being day-to-day, Clippers coach Doc Rivers said “I don’t have a clue” when Redick could return.
“Until, I guess the (term) would be ‘calms down,’ so he can get his movement back, he’ll be out,” Rivers said. “That could be three days, two weeks, three weeks. No one knows. There’s no set deadline on when he’s coming back. He could be back quick or it could take awhile.”
Redick, who previously missed 21 games with a torn ligament in his wrist, is averaging 15.7 points this season and is shooting 39.6 percent from 3-point range. When he returns, he likely won’t have the same seamless transition back into the starting he had before his latest injury, since this time he can’t run to keep his conditioning up.
Redick has been slowed by several ailments, but the Clippers believe this injury stems from the nasty fall he took in Sacramento on Nov. 29, the same incident that hurt his wrist.
“We’re not going to put him out there ’til he’s feeling great,” Rivers said.
Chris Paul’s return pushes Darren Collison back to the bench. When J.J. Redick (sore hip) returns to the starting lineup, Jamal Crawford will join Collison off the bench.
But will Matt Barnes, who has started 11 games ahead of Jared Dudley, also return to the join the second unit?
“I don’t know yet,” Coach Doc Rivers said. “I did like Duds with Chris and J.J. I think that was a great combination at the beginning of the year and I like the energy of Matt coming off the bench, so we’ll just see.
“I think J.J. and Chris helps Jared the most, that combination. When they were all together Jared, was pretty good. That’s it.”
It seemed like a natural question to ask about the Clippers. After 18 games and a 12-6 record, how would Chris Paul fit back in with his teammates after recovering from a separated shoulder.
Jamal Crawford couldn’t wait.
“I’m excited because I think our team has grown,” Crawford said. “We’ve grown in this stretch. Even some of the losses, they’ve been tough losses. We’ve lost by a combined five points the last two games. I’m excited to grow with bringing back an MVP candidate with what we’ve been doing.”
Perhaps Crawford didn’t anticipate a 43-point lead the way they charged through the Philadelphia 76ers Sunday at Staples Center.
But there will be a difference in the Clippers. Blake Griffin’s steady improvement has included a new facet to his game, bringing the ball upcourt to help the guards.
“The only thing we did did different was outlet more to Blake, which I think will really help Chris,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “To expect Chris to push it up every time is hard and I think Darren (Collison) kind of didn’t want to do it and so that was why he was a cheerleader of ‘Throw it ahead to Blake.’
“It will make us even better now because Chris can push it and Blake can push it and it will actually in some ways make us even more dangerous.”
Chris Paul is still aiming for a return on Sunday after missing 18 games with a shoulder separation. There was early conjecture that Paul might be ready on Friday.
J.J. Redick (hip) missed his second consecutive game, but figures to be back when the Clippers face Philadelphia.
Rivers said the Clippers will not have a shootaround Sunday because of the earlier tip-off, but instead will likely shoot on Saturday.
“We’re going to have something (resembling a practice),”Coach Doc Rivers said. “I don’t know if it will be called a practice, but we’re going to get together as a unit because it’s a 6:30 game on Sunday so that’s a hard day to have a shootaround. It’ll be more of a shootaround. For guys like Chris and J.J., we’ll do something so they can be active.”
Doc Rivers won’t let his role as Clippers coach/semi-GM get in the way even in the sometimes harried weeks leading up to the NBA trading deadline.
“It won’t change. I’ll do my job,” Rivers said Friday before the Clippers took on Toronto at Staples Center. “I’m going to say 75 percent of that (trade talk) is ridiculous. The players have been around long enough to understand. Some haven’t/ There are special cases where you can tell chatter affects them, and you may grab one or two of them but I won’t change the way I handle that.”
The Clippers of course, have been part of the speculation surrounding anything from LeBron James’ future to a possible Jared Dudley deal, among other rumors.
Rivers, also the senior vice president of basketball operations, mainly allows vice president Gary Sacks to do the wheeling and dealing, if there is any. But the coach also knows his counsel will be in demand.
In Boston, Rivers had Danny Ainge take care of the business end with the Celtics.
“It’ll be interesting, it’s obviously heated up, the calls,” Rivers said. “But Gary Sacks handles most of those. The difference is we probably talk more now. We talk every day, but other than that it doesn’t change much.
“I’m going to coach the team and my job is to make the team better if I can but it won’t change a lot. The difference, I guess, is if there is something, I’ll be on the phone instead of not having to deal with it over the last nine years.”
Chris Paul, who must play in at least one game before the All-Star Game in order to be eligible to play in the event, is mere days away from returning after dislocating his shoulder.
“He didn’t really go through shootaround but he went through some 1-on-1′s today and looked pretty good so I think he’s very close,” Coach Doc Rivers said. “I don’t want to give a day. I don’t think he’ll play Friday, but he could play after that, but I don’t know that.
“Today in 1-on-1′s he took contact, but it’s still not 5-on-5. We may go tomorrow or Saturday just to get him some contact.”
On Sunday in Milwaukee, an NCAA record held for eight years by Clippers guard J.J. Redick could fall.
Senior Travis Bader of Oakland University in Rochester, Mich., needs only three 3-pointers to surpass the record of 457 Redick set while at Duke.
Redick and the Clippers have already sent along a congratulatory video they made for Bader and Redick plans on calling the 6-foot-5 senior after he surpasses the record.
“I just found an article the other day about him so I learned a little bit about him, a skinny little kid coming into college and he works his butt off, that he’s a good representation of his school,” Redick said. “I heard something this summer, someone said something about it to me, so I knew it was going to be broken this year.”
Redick, who recalled the mental and emotional strain his own chase for the record put on him, has resisted reaching out to Bader so far.
“I thought about texting him the other day, telling him to stop being such a head case,” Redick said, smiling. “I’ll just wait ’til he breaks it.”
With the conversion of Staples Center from hockey rink to basketball court, the Clippers didn’t get a chance to have a true shootaround before Saturday’s game against Utah.
Coach Doc Rivers seemed to prefer it that way, sensing that his players are still not fully recovered from the recent stretch of nine games in nine different cities.
“We’re going through a heck of a point in the schedule and I’ve been around long enough to know when you practice tired, you don’t learn anything from that, you don’t get better from that,” said Rivers, who gave his team Friday off. “I’ve said it for years, if I have a choice between the head and the legs, I’m taking the legs. I need legs. You’re not going to win without those in the games.”
The Clippers have already played 12 of their 17 back-to-back games on their schedule. When Rivers looked at the slate before the season and saw their current stretch of games, he didn’t figure they would be truly be able to recuperate until after Wednesday’s home game against Miami.
“I don’t think you recover quickly from that,” Rivers said of the schedule. “In the second half (of the season) we have a more favorable schedule, more practice time, I think we’ll be able to improve as a team.
“I don’t know if we’ll win more or less, but I know we’ll have a chance to be a better basketball team in the second half of the year.”
The Clippers did get a film session and a walk-through in the locker room before the game. They marked the floor with tape and went through the game plan.
“You still go over the same plays, just no rim involved,” Rivers said. “Sometimes that helps.”