Perhaps more than any other team in the league, the Los Angeles Clippers needed a break. One of the most unsuccessful sports franchises of all time, the Clippers, since their move to L.A. 26 years ago, had only enjoyed two winning seasons, made the playoffs just four times, and moved past the first round once.
That is why, when during this off-season, the Clippers made their greatest coup ever of upgrading their talented young core of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan with the likes of Chris Paul, Caron Butler, and Chauncey Billups, there was greater optimism than ever in Clipperland. The 2011-12 roster of the Clippers was arguably their greatest ever, and the team started off notching up wins quicker than any Clipper side before them. With Paul and Billups throwing up the passes and the soaring athletic talents of Griffin and Jordan slamming them in, the newly-named ‘Lob City’ had finally found the wings they needed to soar higher than ever before.
But it is now the dark ages of the season, and the wings seemed to have been clipped. Billups got injured early, taking away the veteran presence and winning mentality much-needed for this young squad. Griffin, for all his talents, began to slow down as opposing defenders started to figure out his weaknesses, in the post and on the free throw line. And once riding high on the MVP considerations, Chris Paul’s efforts haven’t been enough to keep this side from losing 12 of their last 19 games.
Still, the Clippers find themselves holding a respectable 27-21 record and, at the time of writing, holding on to fourth place in a competitive Western Conference. This past week was Clipper-heavy for NBA fans in India, as we got to witness both the good and the bad of this rising squad. Here is a recap of how their week went, and of a few other games from around the NBA.
Wednesday: Clippers @ Pacers
The Clippers' defensive frailties stuck out in their matchup against the Pacers, who used an energy spark from newly acquired guard Leandro Barbosa (12 points) to run away to a 102-89 win. The Clippers had no answer for Danny Granger, who had 25 points and 8 rebounds for the surprisingly strong Pacers. Blake Griffin had 23 and 10 in a losing effort. The Pacers bench performed well and six players scored in double digits for Indiana.
Thursday: Clippers @ Thunder
It didn’t get any easier on under-pressure head coach Vinny Del Negro and his Clippers, as they visited the Thunder, who currently hold the best record in the Western Conference, the very next night. A game very similar to the one a night ago, this time it was Kevin Durant (32) who exposed the Clippers’ defensive weakness as he led his squad to a 114-91 victory. The last time these two teams met, Blake Griffin dunked over Kendrick Perkins in what many consider to be the dunk of the year. This time around, Perkins and the rest of the Thunder played tough defense on Griffin to hold him down to just seven points in a loss.
Friday: Celtics @ Bucks
The Bucks had a lot of reasons to be confident, including a six-game winning streak, and the newly-acquired scoring prowess of Monta Ellis. But the old heads of Boston can never be discounted, even though the veterans were playing the seventh game of an eight game road trip. But the Celtics turned on their famed defense in the third quarter to hold down the Bucks to just 13 points in the period. On the other end, Paul Pierce (25 points, 9 rebounds) had a vintage performance to lead his side to a 100-91 victory.
Saturday: Mavericks @ Spurs
Just a week ago, the Mavs won this battle of the Texan powerhouses in Dallas. So when the matchup shifted to San Antonio, the Spurs were waiting ready for revenge. Unfortunately, the Spurs were without Tony Parker, who has so far been enjoying the best season of his stellar career. No problem – using a balanced offense where six players scored in double digits, the Spurs pulled away from the Mavericks in the fourth quarter for a comfortable-looking 104-87 victory.
Sunday: Grizzlies @ Clippers
Del Negro, Paul, Griffin, and the rest of the Clippers needed a break, and coming back to their home court seemed to be just the remedy for their woes. After going on a season-high three game losing streak, the Clippers came out with a lot of energy behind Griffin (20 and 10) and Paul (19 points, 13 assists) to dominate the Grizzlies for a 101-85 win. The win kept Del Negro out of the hot seat for one night and showed the full potential of this young, athletic squad. The Grizzlies, who are quickly settling into playoff form, came out flat for one night.
…And the rest of the weekend
The Grizzlies made amends a night later by defeating the other L.A. team – the Lakers – in impressive fashion at the Staples Center. Meanwhile, the Thunder and the Timberwolves had an eventful weekend, too. First, the two teams played in a double-overtime classic where Kevin Love had a career-high 51 points to go with 14 rebounds and Jose Barea had a triple double (24-14-10) in a loss for the T-Wolves. For the Thunder, the dynamic duo of Durant (40 and 17) and Westbrook (45) scored over 40 points each for second time this season. Two nights later, Durant was in full form going for 29, 9, and 8 to beat the Miami Heat, while Love had another big night for the Timberwolves (30 points, 21 rebounds) to defeat the Nuggets.
On your TV sets this week: Wed – Lakers @ Warriors (Ten Sports), Thu – Jazz @ Celtics (PIX), Fri – Mavericks @ Heat (Ten Sports), Sat – Mavericks @ Magic (PIX), Sun – Hornets @ Lakers (Ten Sports); Bulls @ Thunder (SIX), Mon – Warriors @ Lakers (SIX).