Austin Rivers/Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Clippers
Much had been made of the improving defense of the L.A. Clippers. Then the Clippers hit the road for five games beginning March 15 at San Antonio and allowed an average of 110 points while going 1-4 against the Spurs, Houston (the win), Memphis, New Orleans and Golden State.
The Clippers (46-27) have done well to right that ship over the past three games, allowing an average of just 91.3 points in victories over Portland, Denver and Boston.
Backup guard Austin Rivers led the Clippers with 16 points in Monday’s 114-90 rout of Boston at Staples Center. After the game, he said it about as well as it can be said.
“After that last road trip where we dropped a couple of games, we came home and we knew we had to get our defense right,” he said. “You can see how much that leads to better offense as well, just us defending.
“It has to be something that we do consistently and something that is a part of our identity in order for us to compete and beat the teams like the Spurs, Warriors and (Oklahoma City) Thunder in the playoffs.”
The leader of the pack has been DeAndre Jordan, who had three more blocked shots Monday after coming through with six the day before during a 105-90 win over Denver. Keep in mind that Jordan and the rest of the starters did not play in the fourth quarter of either game.
“My job is to play with defensive energy for this team, so any time I can do that it becomes contagious for the rest of the guys,” Jordan said. “We have a lot of energy guys, so they respond well when we pick up the intensity.”
Coach Doc Rivers was talking about Jordan’s defensive presence after Monday’s victory and recalled a conversation he had a a day earlier with Denver coach Mike Malone.
“Mike Malone was just telling me, ‘It’s amazing how many times guys just stop driving because he’s around, which you don’t see reflected in the stats,’” Doc Rivers said. “With his energy, his activity, and his voice – he is the loudest player on our team with his talk – he has taken another step defensively this year and he has been good for us.”