CLIPPERS PROVE UNSTOPPABLE ON BREAK

DeAndre Jordan
DeAndre Jordan throws down a breakaway dunk on the break after taking one dribble from near halfcourt.

It is not hyperbole to suggest that the Clippers ran away from the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday night.

En route to their fourth win in a row, they converted 29 fast-break points, matching a season high, in the sort of dizzying pace that's proven both unstoppable and stunning to watch.

Take, for instance, one of DeAndre Jordan’s three dunks in the second quarter, where Chris Paul found him at midcourt. In a single dribble and two long strides, Jordan went from the “C” in the Clippers script across the center circle to a right-handed flush, outrunning speedster Darren Collison in the process. You don’t need fingers to count how many other centers in the NBA make that happen.

“As you can see we’re so much more athletic than most teams, especially with our big men,” Eric Bledsoe said. “From a guard’s perspective we can just throw it up and they’ll go get it.”

Jordan’s dunk or Jamal Crawford’s flip over his head to a trailing Bledsoe or Blake Griffin finding Crawford in the left corner for an open 3-pointer exemplify what makes the Clippers so deadly in transition. They have options: shooters, finishers, passers, and a stable of players ready and willing to sprint the floor.

“When teams miss shots, I think they get nervous because that means that we’re running at you,” said Paul, who had 14 points, 13 assists and five steals on Wednesday.

The Clippers are second in the NBA in fast-break points (17.2 per game), second in points off turnovers (21.1), and lead the league in steals (10.9).

“I think the fast-paced basketball, for us, comes from defense,” Griffin said. “When we get stops, we get out on the floor in transition, that’s when it becomes fast-paced.”

Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro agreed with his star forward, saying, “We want to use our athleticism and get out on the break when we can. In order to do that we have to rebound, play good defense, and that’s what starts it for us.”

It is likely no coincidence then that when the Clippers have excelled on the break they win, which in turn means they likely played the kind of defense Griffin and Del Negro are alluding to. They have topped 20 fast-break points six times this season, winning all six games and holding opponents to 39.5% from the field.

Mavericks forward Shawn Marion said the Clippers’ defensive pressure led to Dallas’ offensive struggles Wednesday. “They wouldn’t stop pressuring our guards and making them turn the ball over,” Marion added. “So they were able to do what they wanted to do and get out on the fast break.”

And when that happens, the Clippers are capable of running away, as Marion knows firsthand.