After road-trip struggles, Clippers getting back on track defensively

Austin Rivers

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.”

VIDEO: Check out Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan at ferocious best

The DeAndre Jordan Show was in full effect Sunday in the Clippers’ 105-90 victory over the Denver Nuggets at Staples Center. Jordan scored 16 points, grabbed 16 rebounds and blocked six shots. Check out this segment where he blocks a shot on one end and throws down a dunk seconds later on the other:

Five things to take from Clippers’ 105-90 victory over Denver

Los Angeles Clippers guard Austin Rivers, right, shoots as Denver Nuggets center Jusuf Nurkic, of Bosnia, defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, March 27, 2016, in Los Angeles. The Clippers won 105-90.

Austin Rivers, right, of the Clippers tries to get a shot up over Denver’s Jusuf Nurkic during Sunday’s game at Staples Center/AP photo by Mark J. Terrill


– The top news out of this game is what took place before it started. That’s when the Clippers declared Blake Griffin healthy and ready to play, meaning he started his four-game suspension and now just has to sit out three more before he can return next Sunday when the Clippers host the Washington Wizards at 12:30 p.m. at Staples Center.

DeAndre Jordan had another ferocious showing. He scored a team-high 16 points, grabbed 16 rebounds and blocked six shots in 29 minutes. “Yeah, he’s been terrific,” coach Doc Rivers said post-game. Denver coach Mike Malone called Jordan “one of the better rim protectors in the NBA.” Jordan did have five turnovers, which is rare.

Jeff Green had a nice game off the bench, scoring 13 points on 6 of 13 shooting. He also had six rebounds, two steals, a block and zero turnovers in 29 1/2 minutes.

– Then there was Wes Johnson. He has struggled with his shot, as we have recently noted. In a candid interview with this newspaper Saturday before practice, Johnson said it was something he wanted to shoot his way out of, and this was a good start. Johnson scored 13 points off the bench and made 5 of 6 from the field, 3 of 4 from 3-point range.

– Not that the Clippers (45-27) celebrated, but they did clinch a playoff berth with this win. Afterward, coach Rivers said no one on the team even realized it, and he liked that. Obviously, clinching a playoff berth for the fifth consecutive season is a good thing. But it will only remain as such if the Clippers can find a way to get out of the Western Conference semifinals for the first time in franchise history. Right now, their first-round matchup is shaping up to be against the Memphis Grizzlies. The second round – the conference semifinals – would be against the defending-champion Golden State Warriors.

Clippers hold 52-48 lead over Denver Nuggets at halftime

J.J. Redick

J.J. Redick/Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Clippers


The Clippers led by as many as 14 points over the Denver Nuggets in the first quarter Sunday. By the time halftime rolled around, the Clippers led by just four (52-48) at Staples Center.

J.J. Redick led the Clippers with 10 points, Chris Paul and Jeff Green each scored nine and DeAndre Jordan had eight points and 11 rebounds.

The Clippers (44-27) shot 43.5 percent in the half.

D.J. Augustin led the Nuggets (31-42) with 16 points off the bench and Gary Harris scored 11. Denver shot 39.1 percent.

Those Wednesday home games against poor teams killing Clippers

Chris Paul of the Clippers works hard for a shot as Denver’s Kenneth Faried defends against him during Wednesday night’s game at Staples Center, won 87-81 by the Nuggets/AP photo by Alex Gallardo


The L.A. Clippers had some explaining to do following their unlikely 87-81 loss to the lowly Denver Nuggets on Wednesday night at Staples Center. It reminded guard J.J. Redick of another home loss this month to another lousy team on the same night of the week.

“You’re going to have games throughout the season where you come out flat,” he said. “Whether it is energy (or) focus, those games happen. You’re not going to play 82 perfect games. In the second half, we got back into it with our defense. I thought we gave ourselves a chance to win. It is nights like tonight where the really great teams figure out how to win. We’ve had some games where we have done that. I mentioned a couple weeks ago, the Atlanta game, the Indiana game (both narrow road wins).

“But tonight’s game and the (Minnesota) Timberwolves game this month, Wednesday night games at home, they are frustrating games to lose. We feel like those games, that if we play the right way, we will win.”

The Nuggets are 23-35. The Timberwolves, now 18-40, defeated the Clippers 108-102 on Feb. 3.

Although coach Doc Rivers indicated after the game his team played with “the right intentions,” point guard Chris Paul was another who suggested there may have been an overall lack of pizzazz.

“It was a tough loss,” said Paul. whose team next plays Friday night at 7 at Sacramento. “You have to give them a lot of credit for playing hard, but at the same time we have to win games like this.

“I came out before the game started and said, ‘We have to bring our own energy.’ It was kind of flat out there, kind of dead tonight. In these tight games, we have to win.”

The Clippers are 37-20.

VIDEO: Check out this classic lob-and-dunk from Chris Paul to DeAndre Jordan in Clippers’ stunning loss to Denver

The lob-and-dunk between point guard Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan was in effect during Wednesday night’s game between the Clippers and Denver Nuggets. This one here is another shining example of the play that always gets the Staples Center crowd jazzed. But notice the score. The Clippers (37-20) ended up losing this game 87-81 to the lowly Nuggets, who are now 23-35. Check it out: