CARON BUTLER SETS TONE FOR CLIPPERS
LOS ANGELES – It looked much like a little over a month ago, a team loading up to curtail Blake Griffin or Chris Paul with small forward Caron Butler the beneficiary.
Just like he did against the New Orleans Hornets on Nov. 26, when he set a franchise record with nine 3-pointers made in a single game, Butler caught the ball on the wing or in the corner or anywhere for that matter and knocked down jumpers.
Griffin said Butler was playing “out of his mind.”
Unlike against the Hornets, though, Butler’s performance Sunday night against the Utah Jazz helped carry the Clippers to an historic 17th consecutive victory.
“It felt good,” Butler said. “My teammates were definitely getting me open and Chris in the position that he is with the basketball, getting in to the paint and just finding me in rhythm and finding me open, I had to make shots.”
Butler scored 17 points in the first quarter, going 5-for-5 from 3-point range, and finished with 29 points on 10-for-14 shooting and a perfect 6-for-6 night from long range. He is the first player in Clippers history since 1985-86 to make at least six 3-pointers without missing.
Afterwards Butler described how he was earning so many open looks. “In the pick and roll sets, initially they were blitzing Chris,” Butler said. “Blake was getting the ball and they were sending a man off the top or from the baseline and that’s what made me so wide open on the weak side, 2-on-1 with me and Willie [Green] and we capitalized on those opportunities.”
Butler opened the game taking the first four shots for the Clippers, missing two but converting a dunk on the baseline after driving past DeMarre Carroll and his first 3-pointer two possessions later. The dunk seemed to get Butler going, leading to five consecutive makes, all from distance. Butler’s 17 points in the first 12 minutes also helped jiggle the Clippers out of a tepid early going.
“That was huge, no question,” Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said. “I said that after the game to Caron [Butler], I thought he gave us a big boost early and in the third quarter just scoring the ball. I thought we were, I don’t want to say lethargic, but we just didn’t have that extra step early on. We finally found our way, got our rhythm back and different guys stepped up.”
That is part of what has made the Clippers so successful through the first two months of the season, the team’s almost nightly ability to get performances like Butler’s from a variety of players. One night it might be Matt Barnes, scoring 21 off the bench and causing defensive havoc on the wing; the next it might be Paul taking over the game in the final minutes.
Butler, who has scored in double figures in three consecutive games for the first time since the opening week, said that it stems from the roster’s belief in “sharing.”
“I think guys bought into that,” Butler said. “Not caring about a numbers thing, realistically. Guys really bought into sharing, making the extra pass, getting back on defense, covering a teammates. On any given night it could be somebody’s night. Like tonight, I got it going and guys kept getting me open, feeding me, and tomorrow maybe it will maybe be somebody else’s night.”
On Sunday, Butler contributed 29 points in just 24:56 and did not play a second in the fourth quarter, giving way to Barnes, who Del Negro said he wanted to use against Jazz guards Gordon Hayward and Randy Foye. After the game, Barnes said Butler’s selfless approach is exemplary of the bigger picture goals for the Clippers.
“Guys are really buying in, especially for Caron to have 29 points in 25 minutes and not get a chance to play in the fourth,” said Barnes, who made a corner 3-pointer to give the Clippers with 3:13 remaining in front of the team’s bench. “That really says a lot about him. It shows that everyone is really in it to win it and individual stats don’t matter.”