Clippers coach Doc Rivers was still raving about the defensive effort the Clippers gave in their 112-91 victory over Denver on Saturday.
But even more impressive to Rivers was it represented the fourth consecutive games the Clippers held an opponent to fewer than 100 points in a game.
“I do like the trend,” Rivers said. “I think we’ve been trending that way for a while defensively and it’s nice. My belief is you can play defense every night, offense you can try to play every night but it might not work out for you. You can miss open shots and just have a bad night, but your defense should always be there. At least the effort.”
It’s not just at one end of the court, either. The Clippers limited Denver to six fastbreak points in addition to the Nuggets’ 35.7 percent shooting from the field.
“We’ve had the effort in my opinion all year we just weren’t in the right places all year and now we’re starting to get to the right places, the right spaces, and our talk defensively has been phenomenal. Our weak side defense has been improving.
“Last night was one of our better nights because Denver runs. Against them that saying a lot . We’re starting to obey our rules, which is nice.”
Opponents are noticing too. It didn’t surprise Minnesota coach Rick Adelman.
“They certainly had the tools to do that, they had the size with (DeAndre) Jordan, and they’re active, and Chris (Paul) has always been one of the better point guards defensively too. It’s just something that as they play more under Doc, they’ll continue to get better defensively.”
Chris Paul sat down, took a glance at the stat sheet and shook his head.
The line that followed DeAndre Jordan’s name held his gaze.
“Outstanding,” Paul said. “He was no question the MVP of this game tonight. We don’t win this game without his energy.”
Jordan had 14 points, 20 rebounds, 5 blocked shots, played 43 minutes and made all six of his shots as the Clippers negotiated their way through a flat game to score a 108-95 victory over New Orleans Wednesday at Staples Center.
“We were a little sluggish tonight,” Paul said. “You would have expected that in the Spurs game (Monday night) but it caught up with us tonight. You’ve got to push through.
“DJ kept telling us, ‘Come on, Come on.’ And we fed off it. I love what DJ’s doing. He’s the cornerstone of our defense, he rolls, he gets everybody open on the offensive end. I tell you, we should be seeing him in New Orleans come February if he keeps playing like that.”
That would be for an All-Star appearance for the 6-foot-11 center who was challenged to become a contender for Defensive Player of the Year by Coach Doc Rivers before the season started.
“Doc gave me a challenge early on in the summer, it’s something I’ve embraced and it’s fun to take on that challenge that he gave me,” Jordan said. “Our assistant coaches are great teachers and I’m learning every day and every game and I’m trying to improve.
“I’m just playing the role he wants me to play. I’m trying to be the best defender I can be for our team. If that happens then it happens but I’m taking on the challenge. It’s definitely a goal of mine (the top defensive player). I don’t want to win it just one time, I want to win it multiple times and it’s a process, and I’m taking my steps to become a better defensive player.”
Blake Griffin had 21 points and 10 rebounds and the Clippers (18-9) didn’t trail after the middle of the first quarter as they won for the 10th time in 12 home games and stretched their modest winning streak to three. It wasn’t as easy as it might have seemed.
“I was telling somebody in the locker room I was tired like two minutes into the game,” Griffin said. “I don’t know why, I guess it’s kind of that lag. But it was a good win for us and I was proud of the way we gutted it out.”
They picked up defensively where they left off against the Spurs, limiting the Pelicans (11-13) to 39.8 percent shooting from the floor. The Clippers led by as many as 19 points.
“We’ve leaned on our defense at times when we needed it and we’ve allowed our defense to get us into our offense and get our offense going,” Griffin said. “There was a stretch tonight where it seemed like we kind of missed a lot of shots in a row, but we stayed in the game and maintained our lead because of our defense.”
Jared Dudley had 20 points, Jamal Crawford added 17 and the Clippers got a combined 24 from Darren Collison and Wille Green off the bench. All of that meant a relatively quiet night from Chris Paul, who had 12 points and 11 assists. The Clippers never let the Pelicans to creep back into the game after they took over.
“We played pretty flat and maybe this was the day that the (seven-game) trip caught up with us,” Rivers said. “I thought DJ just single-handedly kept us in with his defense and his rebounding and everything else.
“I think he understands his role to the point where he accepts it and loves it. He’s become a star in his role and we need him to be a shot blocker, rebounder and a defender. What he’s shown is he’s still going to score by doing all that stuff and he got 14 points because of it.
Rivers had the rare opportunity to coach against his son, Austin, for the second time in their NBA careers.
“I actually didn’t like it,” Doc Rivers said. “Going against your own son, it’s no fun for you. When he has the ball as a parent you’re like ‘Don’t get hurt, don’t make a mistake, but turn the ball over.’ It’s tough.
“I don’t know what parent is going to cheer against his own kid.”
The Pelicans also pulled a bit of a surprise by activating Anthony Davis before the game. The star forward was expected to be out for a couple more weeks with a broken hand, but the club activated him just before tip-off.
In addition, guard Tyreke Evans also played. Evans was listed as day-to-day with a left ankle sprain. Neither started, but Davis had 24 points and 12 rebounds. He had missed seven games.
Ryan Anderson had 17 points and Jrue Holiday added 13 points for New Orleans.
Wednesday was the second time that Rivers coached against his son, Austin. He did it once last year in Boston and a night he thought he’d enjoy turned into a bit of torture.
He had a new attitude this time around.
“Well, I tell him to turn it over. To foul,” Rivers said with a laugh. “We talk in parameters on the day of. I’m not good at it. We haven’t practiced it enough. I try not to talk to him long. Like three minutes today. I tried to time my call right when I thought he was sleeping. Other than that, we’ll spend time after the game.
“I think it’s harder for me. I think it’s easy for him. Every son wants to beat their dad. He’s already one of the most competitive human beings I’ve met anywhere. I don’t think this is hard for him at all. I think it’s strange for him when he sees me over there.”
Rivers, though, said he would jump at the chance to use any inside knowledge to stop Austin and help the Clippers.
“Absolutely. Yeah, without hesitation,” he said. “I think it was (Rejon) Rondo last year asked the question. We’re about to go out and he goes, ‘I have one question for you, Coach. We’re up two, your son has the ball, he shoots a 3 with no time left. What’s your thoughts when the ball’s in the air?’
“So the whole team’s looking at me and I said ‘Win-win.’ I’m winning either way.”
After a slow start, the Clippers’ team defense has sneaked into a modest 12 th place in the league in terms of points allowed. Early in the season, the Clippers were close to being bottom dwellers.
“Just time,” Rivers said when asked what the reason was for the climb. “I was confident early on that our defense would come around. You could see it, then I kept saying that you know we’re (close).
“Now you can see the consistency in it and guys know now when they make a mistake, they know the mistake. That’s the next step. We have another level and that’s the next step.”
Rivers credits the help defense from forward Blake Griffin for one of the leaps the Clippers have made.
“A lot of people believe showing (help) is enough. We don’t,” Rivers said. “We believe the angle of the show on defense on pick-and-rolls (is important). His show angles the other night were the example of how far we’ve come. He was able to turn (Tony) Parker up the floor and get back to his guy underneath the basket over and over again.”
Matt Barnes, who last played for the Clippers on Nov. 18, was cleared medically and in uniform fro Wednesday’s game against New Orleans.
Nearly a month after undergoing a procedure to repair a torn retina in his left eye, Barnes was ready to don some protective goggles to get back into a game, though Coach Doc Rivers wasn’t planning on having him in Wednesday’s game.
“Hate ‘em. I don’t like anything on my face,” Barnes said of the goggles, which he’ll have to wear for about two weeks. “It’ll be something to work through, but anything to get back on the court.”
Barnes, naturally had to endure some good-natured ribbing about the goggles from his teammates.
“It’s just good to be back,” he said. “I’ve been out of the mix for almost four weeks now so whatever they can dish I can take . . . but I’d wear anything just to get on the court.”
Rivers hopes to take advantage of two days off to get Barnes, who had missed 15 games entering Wednesday’s game, going again.
“He was allowed to run (only) like three or four days ago,” Rivers said. “We have back-to-back practice days coming up so I’m hoping to be able to use him in practice then get him back on the floor.”
The Clippers confirmed the worst-kept secret in the league and signed forward Stephen Jackson on Tuesday night. They just sent their press release.
Jackson, 35, spent the 2012-13 season with San Antonio and played in 55 games. The 13-year veteran has averaged 15.3 points for his career.
Presumably, he will be in uniform Wednesday night in Boston when the Clippers face the Celtics.
Chris Paul returned to the lineup, but the Clippers had to begin life without J.J. Redick for awhile Sunday.
They also appeared to wait for a while to join the regularly scheduled game that was already in progress.
The Clippers recovered from a slow start but couldn’t hit the one shot or grab the one rebound that could have made the difference Sunday in a 105-100 loss to the Indiana Pacers.
“Well, we have to compete for 48 minutes,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “I thought in the second half we joined the game, and then it was a game.”
It was the energy of the reserves that brought the Clippers back from a 14-point deficit. It was Jamal Crawford denying a pass to Paul George, coming up with the steal and getting the ball ahead to Darren Collison for a dunk to tie the game at 94-94 with 4 1/ 2 minutes left.
Yet they gave the lead back immediately and were fighting back again until a shot by Paul went in and out with 31.9 seconds left, then the Clippers couldn’t pull down a rebound and were twice forced to foul and the Pacers put the game away at the free-throw line.
“I was mad at myself that I missed two shots,” Paul said. “I try to pride myself on end-of-game situations, knowing the time to score and put yourself in a position to win. I know if I make one those shots, a seven-second differential in the game clock, we could have gotten a stop and had a chance to win the game.
“I was just disgusted with myself because I got the shot that I wanted.”
Paul missed Friday night’s game at Sacramento with a hamstring strain and got some extra ice treatment on the leg during the fourth quarter, but he said he was fine.
Meanwhile, the Clippers were without Redick, their energizer guard who is now out 6-8 weeks with a broken bone and torn ligament in his right hand.
And the Pacers brought the league’s best record to a West Coast road trip and emerged with a 16-1 record behind Paul George, who had 27 points and David West, who had 24 points and 12 rebounds. Center Roy Hibbert added 19 points and eight rebounds.
“They came in with a purpose,” Rivers said of the Pacers. “This was their first game on the West Coast trip and you could see their seriousness at the beginning of the game. They were locked in and we were not.”
Jamal Crawford came off the bench to lead the Clippers with 20 points. Paul played 34 minutes and had 17 points and 10 assists, Blake Griffin had 16 points and 12 rebounds and the bench provided 44 points and defensive energy.
Yet the Clippers had only enough to catch the Pacers, not pass them.
“I didn’t think we did a good job of competing in the first half,” Griffin said. “Our second team did compete in the first half, in the second quarter they did a great job.”
Indiana jumped out to an 11-point lead, the but the Clippers caught and passed them to take a 41-40 lead in the second quarter. That lasted about 20 seconds, or as long as it took for George to hit a 3-pointer.
West’s jumper at the halftime buzzer after an offensive rebound gave the Pacers a 53-47 lead and served as a bit of an omen of what was to come.
“It was a hard-fought game,” Crawford said. “A play here, a play there could change the complexion of the game. We got off to a slow start for whatever reason and then we got it going in the second quarter. In the third quarter we started a little bit slow and got it going in the fourth.
Willie Green got the start in Redick’s place but scored only two points in 15 minutes. When the Clippers were on the comeback trail in the final period, Crawford joined the four starters.
“It’s going to take come getting used to,” Crawford said of playing without Redick, who was averaging 15.8 points. “Obviously, J.J. has been having a great season. I said time and time again he is one of the better starting 2 guards in the league and we have a flow within that starting unit.”
The Clippers will now embark on a seven-game road trip back east that begins Wednesday in Atlanta.
“We can learn a lot about ourselves, how we approach each game, not thinking about the next one, always thinking about the first one,” Paul said. “I always say you can’t win ‘em all without winning the first one.”
Clippers guard J.J. Redick is out for about two months and might need surgery on his right wrist, but the veteran is looking at the brighter side of his impending shift on the sideline.
“I have enjoyed these 17 games I got to play immensely,” Redick said. “I love this team and I love playing for Doc (Rivers) , so it’s very frustrating. But I’m an optimistic person and I look for the good in every situation and I’ve already started thinking about all the positives two months from now. Mentally I’ll be finsaid e.”
Redick broke the pisiform bone and suffered a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament. He will see hand specialist Dr. Steve Shin on Monday.
“It’s an upper body injury so I can stay in great shape and get in even better shape cardio-wise,” Redick said. “While most guys’ legs are going to be tailing off toward the end of January, I’ll have fresh legs. A couple of coaches said it’ll be like trading for somebody right before the all-star break. I’m hoping I have five more months of basketball to play this season.”
Redick was hurt when he was spilled by Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins while going for a rebound. Redick said the play, which was whistled as a foul on Cousins, was not beyond a hard foul.
“When your momentum’s carrying you somewhere and you’re completely suspended in the air, any little nudge will get going in an opposite direction,’ Redick said. “Unfortunately, it twisted me around a little bit, got me parallel to the floor and I fell.”
Redick said he has already recovered from a broken wrist at ages 7, 13 and 22 and trusts that however this injury heals, he will be able to recover completely.
“I’m not worried about that,” he said. “I trust the specialist. Dr. Shin has operated and seen a bunch of guys in the league so he knows what he’s doing, and I trust our training staff. I’ll be back soon.”
J.J. Redick, who took a hard spill Friday night, will be out 6-8 weeks with a fracture in the small bone of his right hand and a tear of his right ulnar collateral ligament.
Redick’s injury will be re-evaluated on Monday by hand specialist Dr. Steve Shin. Redick is averaging 15.8 points per game this season and had fit seamlessly into the starting lineup.
“It takes out something that’s been huge for us offensively,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said before Sunday’s home game against Indiana. “J.J.’s movement, like I’ve been saying all year, is an offense in itself. And we are setting up a lot of offense off his movement to get to something else.
“He’s one of those guys that when he goes out, it changes a lot of what we do. We’re going to have to do it on the run. We don’t have a lot of time to prepare for the non-J.J. minutes going out on the road.”
The Clippers begin a seven-game Eastern road trip in Atlanta on Wednesday.
Wary enough of the struggling New York Knicks, the Clippers had to endure a bigger scare Wednesday night.
They certainly didn’t enjoy seeing Chris Paul leave the floor and head into the locker room in the third quarter with a right hamstring strain.
But they enjoyed the heck out of their reserves in a 93-80 victory at Staples Center. And oh by the way, Paul – who didn’t return to the game – insists he’s OK and will play Friday night in Sacramento.
“Our bench won the game tonight,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “Our starters had a rare flat first half and our bench came in and we got an 11-point lead.
“I didn’t think we had a great pace all game. I don’t know why it happens. Again the bench came in and changed the pace of the game, speed and floor spacing. We went back to the proper floor spacing when the bench was in. Maybe that was it.”
The five reserves scored 34 points and with Darren Collison (nine points, three assists) playing at point guard for Paul over the final 15 minutes, the Clippers (11-5) never let the Knicks (3-11) threaten as they lost their seventh straight game.
“It was a good opportunity,” Collison said. “It’s Not all the time the starters are going to do everything. The second unit has to give some help and I think Doc is giving us the opportunity. He’s letting us play and we’re succeeding well. I think the biggest thing is we’re playing defense, and that’s all that matters.
Blake Griffin had 15 points and 13 rebounds and J.J. Redick had 15 points for the Clippers, who improved to 8-1 in home games. After Friday’s game, they are home Sunday against Indiana before embarking on a seven-game road trip.
DeAndre Jordan had nine points and 13 rebounds and Jamal Crawford had 13 off the bench despite missing 7 of 10 shots for the Clippers.
But the primary concern was the status of Paul.
“I just strained my hamstring a little bit. I’m all right,” he said. “I went to the back a little bit, kind of worked on it. I was on the bike watching the game. I told Doc, ‘If you need me, I can go.’
“It’s a little tight but I’ll be all right. I’ll be ready Friday.”
That remains to be seen, of course.
“It was his hamstring and I think he and J.P. (trainer Jasen Powell) said he could have come back in, but there was no chance that he was coming back in,” Rivers said. “Of course, (Paul) told me twice already that he’ll be ready for Friday, that doesn’t mean it’s true. That’s just what he said.”
Collison played 22 minutes, two shy of his season high, but had little choice. In terms of true point guards, it’s Paul and Collison and that’s it for the Clippers.
“We only have two point guards on the team,” Collison said. “That’s something me and the coaches have talked about, that I’ve got to be ready. Times like this with Chris not all the way healthy, I’ve got to be ready to go in there and do my job.
“I’ve been watching Chris for a very long time and I’ve seen how he runs the offense and I’m fine with that. For me it’s just relying on my defense, keep things simple and make sure my teammates get in all the right spots.”
Carmelo Anthony scored 19 of his 27 points in the first half, but New York could muster only 12 points in the final period. Andrea Bargnani had 20 points and 10 rebounds for the Knicks, who are 0-3 on their current four-game road trip.
Felton, who missed four games with a lower back/hip injury, had 12 points and seven assists in 35 minutes. But the Knicks shot only 38.6 percent from the field.
New York got off to a fast start and led by as many as nine points, but the Clippers limited the Knicks to making only 21 of 62 shots after the first period.
The Knicks made only 3 of 20 3-point shots as the Clippers’ defense continues its incremental improvement. They allowed only 80 points in Sunday’s win over Chicago.
“It’s definitely a sign that things are going in the right direction,” Paul said. “But we also played against two teams that sort of just come down throw it to a guy and stuff like, that so it’s not as up-tempo and fast but it’s definitely a good sign. You still have to defend against those teams.”