FINAL | December 25, 2012 | Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA 

25

42

26

19

112

26

22

26

24

100

 

By Eric Patten

LOS ANGELES–Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro often says the Clippers win with a “total team effort.” On Tuesday, it was never a truer statement.

The Clippers extended their league-high and franchise-record winning streak to 14 games, blowing by the road weary Denver Nuggets, 112-100, at Staples Center in the NBA’s Christmas Day finale.

The victory gave the Clippers (22-6) the best overall record in the league, percentage points ahead of the Oklahoma City Thunder, who lost 103-97 to the Miami Heat earlier Tuesday. It is the first time in franchise history the Clippers have owned the best winning percentage in the league after 15 games.

Blake Griffin scored 13 points with six rebounds and six assists in 26 minutes and fresh off his Western Conference Player of the Week award Chris Paul had 14 points, eight assists, four rebounds and three steals. But the Clipper bench ultimately did in the Nuggets, who have played a league-high 20 road games this season.

They scored a season-high 64 points as a group, outscoring the Nuggets (15-14) by 19. All 11 players in uniform scored for the Clippers and six players, including three reserves, scored in double digits.


Moment of Truth: Much like their previous win in Phoenix, the Clippers put together a near flawless second quarter. They outscored the Nuggets, 42-22, in the period, found points on 11 consecutive possessions, and turned a one-point deficit into a 19-point advantage at the half.

“We stopped turning it over for that stretch in the second quarter,” Del Negro said. “And we ended up making some defensive stops, not turning it over and then making plays and we were able to extend the lead.”

Matt Barnes and Jamal Crawford combined for 21 points in the quarter, helping punctuate the run with several highlight-reel plays. Barnes rejected JaVale McGee on one end, sprinted the floor and found Griffin for an alley-oop on the other. Crawford had two of his better crossover moves, freeing himself from Andre Iguodala for a pull-up in the lane and also dribbling between his legs and then wrapping the ball around his back for a running bank shot. With 3.8 seconds left before halftime, Crawford answered a Jordan Hamilton 3-pointer with a lob to DeAndre Jordan, who caught the ball with his right hand and threw it down without bringing his left hand up to it.

Difference Maker: The bench. Barnes and Crawford led the way with 20 and 22 points respectively for the reserve unit which totaled a season-high 66 points on the night. It was the league-high 12th time Crawford has topped 20 points off the bench. Barnes, who was almost like a roving defender taking on Andre Iguodala and Danilo Gallinari and switching onto diminutive point guard Ty Lawson at times as well, finished with eight rebounds, three assists and three steals.

“We (the bench) are just trying to keep pushing it,” Ronny Turiaf said. “We’re trying to do whatever we’ve got to do to give us a chance to win a ball game; by moving the ball from side to side and playing together. If we do that, everybody succeeds.”

The bench had 14 of the team’s 29 assists, including three from Turiaf. He also scored two points on a powerful right-handed dunk over McGee, one of the league’s top shot blockers.

“I know he’s long, so I had to dunk it pretty hard,” Turiaf said. “That one felt good. I haven’t had one of those where I dunked real hard like that in a while.”

Stat Line of the Night: Griffin went 6-for-12 from the field and managed 13 points, six assists, six rebounds, a steal and a block in just 25:45. Of his six field goals, two came on lobs and two others on driving dunks, including one down the center of the lane in the second quarter where he nearly jumped over three Nuggets defenders.

More Stats: 

Willie Green. The unheralded shooting guard scored in double-figures for the third time this season, chipping in 11 points on 4-for-6 shooting, including 3-for-4 from distance. After the Nuggets put together a string of baskets to close within 10 in the third quarter, Green buried consecutive 3-pointers from opposite corners off assists from Caron Butler to stretch the Clippers’ lead back to 16.

“He hit those big threes and kind of weathered the storm for us. Those were big,” Del Negro said. “I thought Caron made a really good, unselfish play and that’s winning basketball, you know, making that unselfish play.”

Kosta Koufos. In addition to committing a pair of hard fouls against Griffin and Crawford, the first of which caused a brief confrontation, the Denver big man matched a season high with 16 points on 8-for-8 shooting and added 10 rebounds.

Hot: The Clippers from 3-point range, again. For the second night in a row, the Clippers made 11 3-pointers. Barnes, Crawford and Green made three each. It is the fourth time since 1985-86 the Clippers have made at least 11 shots from behind the arc while shooting 44% or better in consecutive games.

Not: Gallinari. He’s had two 1-for-10 nights in his last three games, not a good sign for a player expected to be among Denver’s top scorers. He had seven points, and while he was perfect from the free throw line, he was 0-for-3 from distance and made just one field goal, a layup midway through the second quarter.

Quotables:

On team chemistry:

Jordan: “We have a mixture of some young guys, some guys in their prime and some veterans on this team. We play well together on the court, but we are also close off the court and I think that helps our play. If we continue to stay close and everybody stays healthy we will be alright.”

On playing on Christmas Day:

Griffin: “Most guys have family here. To get a win like that and to be able to play on Christmas means a lot. It’s a good win but we got to keep going.”

Crawford: “I think to play anywhere on Christmas means the league views you as a team that’s on the rise or a team that people want to see. It’s an honor.”

On the play of Crawford and Barnes:

Andre Miller: “[Barnes] has always been a guy that has been up and down with his 3-point shooting. His confidence is high right now, and they play freestyle over there and he takes advantage of it by cutting. Jamal is playing well too and that spreads the confidence around.”

Notes: The Clippers and Nuggets teamed up with the Salvation Army’s Seimon Youth and Community Center to present gifts to children in need prior to tipoff… Clippers record on Christmas Day is 4-7, including going 3-3 since moving from Buffalo… The Clippers wore their special edition Christmas jerseys from the NBA’s “Winter Court Collection.” It was the eleventh time in franchise history they have played on Christmas Day, including the third time in the last four seasons… It was the 11th time this season the Clippers have topped 105 points. They also lead the league with 15 double-digit victories and a +9.7 point differential… Chauncey Billups addressed thanked the crowd on behalf of the organization before tipoff, ending his brief speech by saying, “We want to everybody to have a very safe and happy holiday and a great New Year. Go Clippers.” 

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