When your best player is out for three consecutive games and you win all of them, on the road, it means you’ve got the right stuff. The Los Angeles Clippers are off to their best 40-game start in history while Blake Griffin and Jamal Crawford are steering the ship in the right direction without Chris Paul.
Not that beating (90-77) the Minnesota Timberwolves is too hard this day. Ricky Rubio is “healthy”, but from from where they want him to be, finishing with 4 points and 6 assists on 2-9 from the field. Kevin Love is out. Pekovic was injured while getting tangled with Griffin under the basket in the third quarter and Alexey Shved rolled his left ankle midway through the final period. Brandon Roy may not play at all this season with recurring knee problems, Chase Budinger is out until March with a knee injury and Josh Howard and Malcolm Lee are both lost for the season with injuries.
It wasn’t even close, although the Clippers did need a strong finish in the fourth quarter (22-14) to close out the game. The interesting thing about the Clippers is the seperation between the starting unit and the bench players, and how they feel they play for each other.
We want the starters to be comfortable enough that when they come out of the game they don’t have to worry. I think when they come out of the game we should extend the lead and they will be fresher down the season because of it.
Jamal Crawford led the scoring with 22 points off the bench, as the Clippers won the bench vs bench battle 45-23. They also won the points in the paint battle, always an indicator for an easy game when that difference is too big, scoring 50 points to the Timberwolves’ 34.
Off to a 31-9 start, this is the first 40 game beginning in Clippers history. It beats the 24-16 from 2005-2006 and 1974-1975, 23-17 from last season and 22-18 from the 1975-1976 season.
Blake Griffin is finding it harder this season to post big numbers and double doubles like in his first two seasons in the NBA, but that is because his game has changed, and he has turned into a smarter player, more about making the right choices, both on defense and on offense, than always going for the spectacular thing. He scored 20 points and grabbed 4 rebounds on a night in which he found out he was going to start in his third All-Star game.
We should come into every arena feeling we should get the W. That’s not being cocky or overconfident. That’s having enough confidence in our ability and ourselves and the personnel we have out there and the system that we run.
That’s the feeling on the red side, the successful side, of LA this season. Whoever they play, wherever the play, they’re going to win. This is not a simple turnaround for a franchise consistently considered one of the worst in North American sports history. Now, they’re possibly the best team in the NBA, who can notch up wins on the road, back-to-back-to-back, without their superstar point guard. That’s enough of a reason to feel confident.