Not every game by the Los Angeles Clippers is a slam dunk show by Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. Sometimes, winning ugly, with defense, with scratching and with digging deep late in the fourth quarter, especially for Chris Paul, is just as satisfying if not more.
Games against the Chicago Bulls are like that. Defensive struggles, with low shooting percentages (46.3% from the field), turning the ball over 15 times. Chicago, without the point guard to match up against Chris Paul, finishing with only 40.2% from the field. The Clippers weren’t flying too much in the United Center, but it was still enough for a 94-89 win and improving to a 15-6 record.
They’ve now won 7 in a row, which is one less than the franchise record set in the 1991-1992 season. They have won 10 of their last 12 at the United Center.
Chris Paul, who finished with 18 points, 4 assists and 3 steals. He played in the fourth quarter for the first time in over a week. The Clippers have been on that much of a role in recent weeks, there was no need for him to play big minutes, until now. Paul hit a floater and then 3 free throws to score the Clippers’ last five points after Belinelli managed to cut the lead down to 2 with 48 seconds left.
I kind of forgot what it was like to play in the fourth quarter. But at the end, we knew we were on the road and we’d have to withstand a run we knew they would make. Our defense kept us in the game. We want our identity to be a defensive identity, and we’re still trying to build that.
There isn’t a team in the NBA that doesn’t talk about wanting to be about defense first. The Clippers have been mentioning it for quite some time, and this season, it seems like they’ve got the kind of foucs and discipline to get it going more often than not. They’ve allowed over 100 points only once in the last 10 games, ranked 7th in the NBA by keeping teams at only 94.2 points per game and 6th in the NBA, forcing them to shoot 43.2% from the field. Finally, the athleticism of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan is good for more than just highlight reels on youtube.
Games on the road like this, after we had a little bit of success, six games, coming on the road, you don’t want to have a letdown. Chicago’s a tough team. These are the kinds of wins you need.
Griffin finished with 22 points and 10 rebounds against a team he loves to face. Into his third NBA season, Griffin is averaging 28.6 points and 11.6 rebounds against the Bulls. Only the Knicks have seen him average more points against them than anyone else in the NBA with 31.1 points per game.
The up & down syndrome will return, but as long as the Clippers finally have a defense to count on, streaky shooting isn’t always the one thing they’re going to need to win games. Making easy points and getting as much as possible to come from transition is the key to pick up wins in the NBA. The Clippers can do it the attractive way, but knowing how to win ugly is something all great teams have in them. The Clippers are on the right path to become one.