FRIDAY FIVE: BEST ROAD WINS
Eric Patten, Clippers.com
The Clippers compiled 23 road wins in 2013-14, one shy of matching the franchise record. And while they were hovering around .500 for a good portion of the season away from home, they emerged as one of the better road teams in the league after Jan. 1. Of their most significant wins away from home, including three double-digit comebacks against the Mavericks (twice) and Suns, seven came after the calendar turned to 2014.
Here is a look at the five best wins away from home this season, considering opponent, circumstance and impact of the game:
5. Clippers 96, Celtics 88 (Dec. 11, 2013 at TD Garden):
The standout moments of the Clippers’ eight-point win in Boston had very little do with the game itself. There were plenty of those moments, too, including Jamal Crawford’s consecutive 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to help put the game away and Antawn Jamison’s 20,000th career point. But the night belonged to Doc Rivers, who returned to the city he spent nine seasons and won the 2008 NBA title. There was a standing ovation as he stepped out of the visiting tunnel, the media contingent that resembled a presidential address, an emotional tribute video in the first half and a press conference in the Celtics media room that included a Clippers backdrop and Boston microphone flag.
Stat line of the game: Crawford (21 points in 27 minutes, 3 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 blocks)
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4. Clippers 126, Raptors 118 (Jan. 25, 2014 at Air Canada Centre):
The Atlantic Division champions versus the Pacific Division champions. The Clippers were north of the border on the second night of a back-to-back and were in the middle of their month-long stretch without Chris Paul. They overcame a 51-point game from Terrence Ross, a career high by more than double his previous scoring output, and the absence of J.J. Redick in the first half. The game was an ABA-style shootout with Crawford, who scored a team-high 37 points and admitted he felt like he was on his way to matching fellow Seattleite Ross’ 50, leading the way for nearly 40 minutes and Redick, who returned from a bothersome back in the second half, scoring 16 of his 18 points after halftime. To top it off, Tag Team performed their 90s hit “Whoomp, There It Is” at halftime.
Stat line of the game: Crawford (37 points in 32 minutes, 11 assists, 3 rebounds and 2 steals)
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3. Clippers 119, Mavericks 112 (Jan. 3, 2014 at American Airlines Center):
All seemed loss on the Clippers’ first game of a back-to-back Texas two-step. They were allowing Dallas to score at will and Paul was lost in the third quarter due to a separated shoulder that would keep him out until Feb. 9. Despite both teams shooting nearly 50 percent, the Clippers were down by double digits in the fourth quarter and trailed 110-103 when they went on a 16-2 run to close the game. The final four minutes were keyed by the Clippers’ defense, led by Blake Griffin, who had 25 points and 15 rebounds, halting Dirk Nowitzki and DeAndre Jordan serving as his usual defensive anchor in the paint. Jordan had 18 rebounds and matched his career high with 25 points. Darren Collison added 20 points off the bench in his first game against the Mavericks since he left the team as free agent following the 2012-13 season.
Stat line of the game: Jordan (25 points on 11-for-14 shooting, 18 rebounds and 3 blocks)
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2. Clippers 112, Suns 108 (Apr. 2, 2014 at U.S. Airways Center):
In some ways the Clippers had nothing to play for. The Pacific Division was a formality, they were on the tail end of a five-game road trip and were effectively locked into a top three seed in the West. But at the same time, the Clippers had everything to prove. They had grown into a mentally tough team less than 10 months after questions about their resiliency in crisis was a well-documented question. Perhaps the biggest example of their growth in the regular season came in April in Phoenix. Down by 17 in the third quarter, Rivers had already decided to see how the reserves would fare before turning back to his starters. Effectively, he was considering resting them for the following night when the Clippers played Dallas at home. But Willie Green, Jared Dudley and Co. pulled the Clippers, playing without Crawford, Redick and a hobbled Griffin, back within striking distance. Rivers put the starters back in and they closed it out, scoring 11 in a row at one point. Collison had 23 points. Griffin matched it. And Paul scored 20. The coup de grace was clinching the Pacific Division crown for the second consecutive season.
Stat line of the game: Collison (23 points in 42 minutes 5 assists, 3 rebounds and 3 steals)
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1. Clippers 125, Thunder 117 (Feb. 23, 2014 at Chesapeake Energy Arena):
The real question before the Clippers took the floor in Oklahoma City in the first game of what would turn out to be 11 wins in a row was whether or not Paul would even suit up. He was a game-time decision after injuring his thumb trying to poke the ball away from Marc Gasol in Memphis two nights earlier. The national showcase game with the Clippers wearing their baby blue alternate jerseys for the only time as a road team awaited. Paul, and the Clippers, delivered. Paul nearly had a triple-double, Crawford scored 36 points starting next to him and every starter had at least 18 points to overcome Kevin Durant’s game-high 42 points and preview what would be a classic Western Conference Semifinal series three months later. It was by far the most impressive win of the season, doing so in emphatic fashion against a Thunder team at full strength, and was another check mark on Griffin’s MVP-caliber resume and run to the February Player of the Month Award.
Stat line of the game: Paul (18 points, 12 assists, and 8 rebounds)
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