They did it. With a 107-96 victory over the Utah Jazz, the Los Angeles have won 17 games in a row and went undefeated in the month of December (16-0). Only three teams have gone undefeated in a month. Lobsanity is at its peak, and there’s really nothing else to say about it. Next week, sadly, the streak may end — @DEN, @GSW (b2b), LAL, and @GSW (b2b) — but that’s a year away. Enjoy this moment, Clipper fans. The Clippers are doing something you’ll likely never see again, or at least not with this authority. There’s nothing else to say. Life is great in Clipper Land. On to Last Call:
Recap | Box score
MVP: Caron Butler. How often does a guy score 29 points through three quarters and then not see the floor at all in the fourth quarter of a tight game? Give Butler credit for being just fine with his role – and for going 6-for-6 from behind the arc.
X-Factor: Clutch performances. You don’t win 17 games in a row without knowing how to close out a game. Jamal Crawford and Matt Barnes knocked down big threes, DeAndre Jordan punished the hack-a-Jordan by making five straight free throws, and Chris Paul, as per usual, slammed the door shut.
That was…perfect. The Clippers are now one of three teams in NBA history to play a perfect December, and they had to work for it in their final game. Al Jefferson was borderline unstoppable (30 points), but the streak survived.
17 wins a row
I’d enter some cliché or obscure stat, but the headline says it all. The Clippers are rollin’.
Tweets of the Game
Let’s just say Brad Turner covers Caron Butler. I covered Rasual Butler. That about says it all…#Clippers
— lisa dillman (@reallisa) December 31, 2012
— Amin Elhassan (@AminESPN) December 31, 2012
ClipperBlogLive’s Best Moment
In tonight’s ClipperBlog Live, Fred and Andrew blahblah ZOMG 17-0!!!
Check Your Messages
Clippers winning without lady luck
They say you make your own luck, but in the month of December, the Clippers have had little need to manufacture much of it. They’ve blown out most of their opponents, coasting to victory easily and often sitting their starters the entire fourth quarter. For a franchise that many thought was legitimately cursed once upon a time, it’s been interesting to see the Clippers control their own fate without interruptions from the basketball gods.
And although they haven’t been dependent on luck, the Clippers knew what to do once a bit of it came their way on Sunday night against the Utah Jazz.
When Jazz head coach Ty Corbin eventually went with the Hack-A-Shaq technique on DeAndre Jordan, the Clippers lead began to feel a little bit more vulnerable. When the ball is in the hands of Paul, all is safe. But when the ball is in the hands of a 40 percent free throw shooter? It’s skill against luck. One you put your faith in, the other you hope for.
But with Jordan at the line, something funny happened. Again. For the fourth time in two games.
Instead of clank, DeAndre Jordan went bank.
Jordan’s bank shot free throw was one of five makes in a row that propelled the Clippers to a 107-96 win, just when the winning streak was beginning to look like it was ready to end for the second time in two games.
Instead, the Clippers will take their 17-game winning streak into the new year. And although that streak will be subject to a possible bad break or an unlucky bounce, the Clippers perfect month of December, one of only three in NBA history, will go into the record books where lady luck can no longer reach it.
-D.J. Foster at Pro Basketball Talk
File under curious
Did anyone else notice that Utah reversed the basket order for the game? Visiting teams usually get to choose which direction to start the game, and most select the basket on the side of their bench. But Corbin zagged and had the Jazz shoot the ball on the opposite side to open the game.
No big deal, except it meant the Clippers would be setting up defense in the second half away from their bench. While the Clippers are sporting a flashy defensive rating, they still probably like the security of the coaching staff or players on the sidelines helping call out defensive rotations. Just something to tuck away for a later date. Also, did you know they won 17 games in a row?
In a way, the Clippers lucked out. They surely outplayed the Jazz in their 107-96 victory, but part of that game was given to them. Once again, Chris Paul was tremendous Sunday night. He had one of his best defensive games of the season, dimed and dished in ways that only Chris Paul can do, and got the Clippers off to a hot, first quarter start. In reality, what more could you want?
But the times when Paul wasn’t at his best were when Jamal Tinsley was in the game. Yet, in a close game with seven minutes to go, Paul entered and Tinsley stayed planted on the bench. He didn’t come back out to guard Paul until there were a little more than two minutes left and the game was already in hand. At that point, there was nothing Tinsley could do, especially once Utah started fouling DeAndre Jordan.
The Jazz being just a bit too late to pull the trigger on strategic decisions tonight was a bit of a trend. With only a few minutes left, Utah went to the Hack-a-DeAndre – which is a terrible name. We do realize “hack” only worked because it rhymed with Shaq, right?
Let’s go with Deck-a-DJ, instead.
Deck-a-DJ can work, but the Jazz went to it so late. Jordan hit his free throws and Utah’s strategy failed, but the logic behind Deck-a-DJ made sense. It just made even more sense to start doing it even earlier in the fourth quarter. Jazz coach Ty Corbin seemed just a little delayed in his decision-making tonight. And that may be what allowed the Clippers to separate themselves and earn a 17th consecutive win.
I know it felt like the Clippers bigs were getting burned left and right, but Al Jefferson’s efficient 30-point performance says more about the deftness of his midrange game than LA’s interior defense. The frontline rotations, frequently resulting in double teams when Utah’s big men attempted to enter the paint, effected the Jazz’s willingness to finish postups at the rim (objectively the easiest place to score) and drive open lanes (or at least they appeared to be open).
While Jefferson is equally capable around the rim and 10-15 feet out, Enes Kantor and Derrick Favors are much more threatening at the basket. The swiftness of the interior rotations made these youngsters uncomfortable, allowing the bench platoon to reclaim the advantage we’ve come to expect from them.
Caron Butler Meet Ben Gordon
Much has been made of Caron Butler’s scoring in bunches, explosive quarters – usually first quarters – punctuating long stretches of near invisibility. If one re-calculated his points-per-game without his two high-scoring games – tonight’s 29 and his 33 point effort against the Hornets (the last time the Clippers lost, incidentally) – his average would drop a stunning point and a half.
Now, obviously, there’s something both reductive and uncharitable about this line of thinking. Take away any player’s best efforts, and their averages fall accordingly. But check this out: Only 27 players in the NBA have scored at least 29 points in at least 2 games this season. Fifteen of them (Bryant, Anthony, Durant, Harden, James, Westbrook, Aldridge, Wade, Curry, Lee, Pierce, Ellis, Parker, Mayo, and Holiday) are 15 of the league’s top 16 points-per-game leaders. Ten more are either in the top 40 (Anderson, Batum, DeRozan, George, Jennings, Jefferson, West, and Walker) or would be if they had enough games to qualify (Love and Irving). And every player on that list has a PER above 15 (welcome aboard DeMar).
The only exceptions? Ben Gordon and Caron. And Ben Gordon has a PER well above 16. Conclusion? Um, I really don’t have one. As KA would say, this is tiny sample size theater. But of all the slightly below average players in the league, Caron Butler may be the most likely to score 29 points.
Pick your poison
Caron Butler had 29 points tonight, and while I don’t expect that to become a trend, it’s worthy if only for one reason: this team has at least six guys who can drop 20 points on any given night.
Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and Jamal Crawford are the “known” scorers. But as Butler proved tonight and against the Hornets, and as Matt Barnes has proven throughout the streak, the Clippers’ small forwards are capable of providing a much-needed scoring punch.
Also, if you were paying attention, I said six guys and I only named five. Chauncey Billups, who’s still nursing an assortment of injuries, would be that sixth player. And who knows, we don’t know what to expect out of Grant Hill. DeAndre Jordan and Eric Bledsoe, if given more time, could probably put up 20 points on a night.
The Clippers won’t win a championship just because they have a variety of guys who can score, but it doesn’t hurt either. If, for whatever reason, Griffin or Paul are having an off-night come playoff time, the Clippers have more than a few options to turn to. Last time I checked, that’s a good thing.