The Los Angeles Clippers have had some big wins wearing their baby blue Sunday uniforms this season. When they opened up 11-0 and 17-3 against the Cavaliers, it felt like this was going to be another rout of Bulls or perhaps even 76ers proportions. When Cavs superstar Kyrie Irving left the game late in the first quarter and the score 23-12 after a mid-air collision with DeAndre Jordan, the game seemed all but over.
It didn't turn out to be as easy as those earlier blowouts. The Clippers went through a lull in the third period just when they should have been stepping on the gas, but they still led by 17 heading into the final stanza. A 10-0 Cavs run to start the fourth quickly reduced the lead to seven, and suddenly it seemed like a game again.
To be fair through, that Cavs run came against a makeshift Clippers second unit seeing their first time together because of injuries. Darren Collison was a late scratch because of a stomach virus, the third Clippers' shooting guard unavailable for the game, joining J.J. Redick and Jamal Crawford on the sidelines. Consequently, Cleveland's run came against a lineup of Willie Green, Reggie Bullock, Danny Granger, Hedo Turkoglu and Big Baby Davis -- a plenty talented group, but one can understand if they looked a tad disorganized and rudderless.
After Chris Paul and Blake Griffin checked back into the game, order was quickly restored and the Clippers won going away. It would have been nice for the starters to get the fourth quarter off with a tough game looming in Denver in 20 hours or so, but it was not to be. The good news is they have lots of time off after the Nuggets game, so they can push hard through that and recuperate afterwards.
Paul was absolutely splendid down the stretch in the fourth -- the sharpest he's looked shooting the ball in a very long time. He scored 11 of the Clippers 16 points in one sequence as they put the game out of reach, and he finished with 16 points and 15 assists. He made his final five shots and finished the game 7-15 -- do the math, and he was 2-10 until that point, so seeing him make some shots was most welcome indeed.
The victory is the Clippers' 11th in a row. That equals the longest streak in the NBA this season (established by the Spurs and Trail Blazers early in the season), a mark they'll have an opportunity to improve upon tomorrow night. It's also the second longest winning streak in franchise history, tying a mark set by the Braves in 1974 and second only to last season's 17 gamer. Think about that: For almost 40 years, the Clippers didn't have a double digit winning streak, but they've had two the last two seasons.
Blake Griffin posted his 27th straight 20 point game, and flirted with a triple double, with 11 rebounds and eight assists. He was the team's leading scorer among seven Clippers in double figures. Reggie Bullock stepped into the back up shooting guard role with so many guards missing, and put up a career high 16 points on 5-9 shooting and 2-3 on three pointers.
The injuries are beginning to pile up, but the good news is that none of them seem too serious (with the obvious exception of Redick's bulging disc, which may or may not be an ongoing problem). The fact that the Clippers are on an NBA season-high winning streak while missing two of their top four scorers, not to mention Collison tonight, is pretty remarkable. Rookie Bullock looked very solid tonight -- and this is a guy that doesn't get a sniff at the rotation when everyone is healthy. With the additions of Davis and Granger, this is a very deep roster -- though of course we've yet to see the full depth.