GRIFFIN & PAUL LEAD WAY INTO RECORD BOOKS
LOS ANGELES – As the Clippers etched themselves into history over the last month, it has come in a variety of ways, from a variety of players.
But for perhaps the first time in the franchise-record 12 consecutive wins, superstars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin carried much of the burden of extending it.
The duo combined for 45 points, their most during the streak. Paul had 13 assists, Griffin 13 rebounds. Paul’s 24-point, 13-assist, five-steal effort was the first of its kind in the NBA this season. The last player to tally such prolific numbers in all three categories during a single game: Paul, on April 22, 2012.
On Wednesday when the Kings crept back into the game behind a put-back dunk by Jason Thompson, making it 65-59 in the third quarter, Paul promptly hit a 3-pointer from the left wing and followed it up with a lob to Griffin over John Salmons' back.
Paul and Griffin sat for a portion of the fourth quarter, but re-entered with just over 6:00 remaining in the period and the Clippers up seven. A possession later, Griffin was at the free throw line and shortly thereafter with the shot clock winding down Paul made his fourth of five 3-pointers on the night and canned another one over a seemingly defenseless Jimmer Fredette.
“That’s what all-stars do,” Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said. “I expect that from them, they expect it, their teammates do. They’re more than capable of doing it. That’s what stars in this league do.”
As much as playing like stars or contributing to team history Paul and Griffin can also take solace in helping build something that has not been witnessed since the Clippers arrived in California from Buffalo more than three decades ago.
The 12-game winning streak, matching the Oklahoma City Thunder for the longest of 2012-13, requires context beyond the first two months. It is the 98th winning streak of 12 games or longer in NBA history since 1949 and seventh since 2010-11, Griffin’s rookie season.
“It’s always good to make history,” said guard Chauncey Billups, who as a member of the Detroit Pistons experienced five winning streaks of 10 games or greater, including 13 consecutive wins during their 2003-04 championship season. “When you’re on really good teams, you want to be looked at and known as this team did such and such or he was on the team that won whatever. You want to stand for something. I think this gives team an opportunity to blaze its own trail so to speak.”
Since Nov. 26, the last time the Clippers lost, they certainly have blazed their own trail.
Matt Barnes has scored at a career-high rate off the bench, including 13 Wednesday. Eric Bledsoe has become an advanced stats darling; Jamal Crawford a Sixth Man of the Year candidate. And Lamar Odom is coming nearer and nearer to the versatile player of not so distant memory.
The Clippers have had fewer than 20 wins in nine seasons since moving from Buffalo in 1978. They reached 20 this year before Christmas. Their 12 wins this month equal the most in any month in franchise history. They still have five December games remaining.
“I remember the year I got drafted, the season before I think they had [19 wins],” Griffin said. “To accomplish that so far, is great, but I think the best thing about it for me is being a part of something much bigger than yourself.”
Griffin lauded the organization for committing to changing the culture and Paul, sitting in his now customary position to Griffin’s left at the podium, said the Clippers have “bigger sights.”
“It’s pretty cool and I think it’s great for our fans,” Paul said. “For us, it’s another win and it feels good but we can’t be satisfied,”
Del Negro added: “[The streak] is great, but we set a lot bigger goals than that at the beginning of the season. Is it positive? Of course, we’re finding ways to win in different ways, whether it’s home or road and that’s great. But we know we have to continue the process.”