The Clippers set a new record for consecutive home wins in their 27 year history in Los Angeles with their ninth straight win. It's going to be both a huge challenge and a long wait if they want to better the franchise mark of 11 consecutive home wins set by the San Diego Clippers in 1979, but for now, let's appreciate the accomplishment at hand.
This is a team that began the season 1-13 overall, and lost six of their first seven home games. They have a new coach and about half the roster is new. Their star is a rookie, and there are two more rookies featured prominently in the rotation. The leading scorer from last season's team has been hurt for most of the season and the entirety of the winning streak, and the leading scorer from this season's team has missed the last two wins. The team has faced loads of adversity, and their future is significantly brighter than their present - and even given all of that, they have now established an all time Los Angeles Clippers winning streak. Sure, the Clippers don't have the greatest history, but no matter how you spin it, this is quite an accomplishment for a young and still improving team.
Tonight's win was pretty remarkable for a couple of reasons. For one thing, the Clippers made just 2 of 13 three point attempts. That ties their lowest total made threes on the season, and is their second worst percentage. Without a viable perimeter threat on the night, the Clippers had no choice but to go inside. And go inside they did. Despite the fact that the Bucks were loading up their defense to stop up the middle, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan combined for 48 points on 20 for 28 shooting.
Griffin naturally had the lion's share of those points, 32 in all, to go along with 11 rebounds and 6 assists in a spectacular all around game. Naturally, he added a few more clips to his highlight reel, including a couple of dives on the floor for loose balls. But Blake's buddy DeAndre was impressive in his own right. Not only did he have a season high 16 points on 7 for 8 shooting (he had one tip that rolled around the rim and came out or he would have had a perfect night from the field), he also had five blocked shots. Even with Andrew Bogut, the leading shot blocker in the NBA playing tonight, it was obvious who the most intimidating defensive presence was in this game. DeAndre also provided the most exhilarating highlights of the night. His alley oop finish from
Randy Foye Eric Bledsoe (my bad, he got an oop from Foye also, this one came from Bledsoe) needs it's own name for sure - call it the Brockman for the unfortunate Buck who ended up on the poster, helplessly grabbing at Jordan's jersey in a feeble attempt to stop a sledge hammer.
The other reason that this win was so impressive is because the Bucks went through some red hot shooting. In the second quarter, and especially at the beginning of the third, Milwaukee rarely missed. The Clippers were playing pretty good defense, and forcing the Bucks to take mostly contested jumpers, a good strategy against any team and seemingly can't miss ploy against Milwaukee. Instead, they made a string of jumpers to take the lead. Milwaukee made 9 of their first 11 field goals in the third, and that included two three pointers. Thanks to the hot shooting, they erased a 12 point Clippers lead and actually went up by 7 at one point. After so many blown second half leads this season, it would have been easy for the Clippers to get down and lost their focus, but they restored order and the Bucks started missing shots again and LA put the game away in the fourth.
A big tip of the hat needs to go out to Ike Diogu as well. He scored his only six points of the night early in the fourth quarter with Griffin on the bench, and each pair of points gave the Clippers the lead in what was a see saw stretch of the game. He also drew at least three charges on the game, and almost single handedly fouled Ersan Ilyasova out in the fourth, drawing two charges and a loose ball foul on the young Turk. In all, he drew three charges in the fourth quarter alone; those plays are absolutely huge in a close game.
The Clippers caught some breaks as well. John Salmons and Drew Gooden did not play in the game. Ilyasova fouled out as already mentioned. Brandon Jennings was limited to 18 minutes by the Bucks training staff ad he works his way back from injury, and Andrew Bogut left the game in the fourth for an unspecified reason. LA is plenty beat up themselves, so Milwaukee's not going to get a lot of sympathy around here, but down the stretch it was nice to see no Jennings, no Bogut and no Ilyasova.
Baron Davis had another solid game, with 18 points on 7 for 14 shooting, 5 rebounds and 7 assists against only 2 turnovers. He made some NBA fantasy owners happy tonight. And once again Randy Foye had a terrific game filling in for Eric Gordon, scoring 20 points. (What a boon to your scoring average to be a ball handler and a good free throw shooter in the final moments of a relatively close game!) Foye's three in the final minute (on an assist from Baron after he's secured a huge offensive rebound) put the game essentially out of reach.
Too bad the easy home games are over for awhile - indeed, home games of almost any type will be over for awhile very soon. The Clippers finish the month of January with a 9-5 record, their best month in years. Ten of those January games (and all nine wins of course) came at home. But in February they play only two home games, against two of the best Eastern Conference teams - Chicago on Wednesday, and then Boston four weeks from now on February 26th. In between, they play an unprecedented 11 consecutive games on the road.
So savor the feeling of January's record while you can, because February could be cruel.