Another game, another win added to the longest in the history of the franchise. The Los Angeles Clippers have now won 14 consecutive games, making it look different by showing a new way to finish off opponents each time, allowing Chris Paul and Blake Griffin to take long rests in the fourth quarter, unlike other busy NBA superstars.
Maybe, just maybe, this team has the best bench in the NBA. A huge second quarter, outscoring the Denver Nuggets 42-22, lead to an easy, misleading win with 112-110. It should have been a bigger margin.
It all came down to Eric Bledsoe and the second unit, setting up the beginning of a 28-10 run in the second quarter. Bledsoe finished with 12 points, not standing out among other bench players who combined for 64 points. Jamal Crawford of course with 22 points and Matt Barnes continuing to improve as the season goes along with 20.
During that run, when Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan stepped back on court, the fun began. The Nuggets have no problem playing high-tempo basketball, but they kept turning the ball over (18 in the game) and missing open shots, which quickly put them in a no-win situation. The high flying antics of Griffin, Barnes and DeAndre Jordan just made it more painful and demoralizing, and they never got close to erasing the lead in the third quarter.
Chris Paul, who had a quiet game with 14 points and 8 assists, called this win and this streak Fool’s gold. This is fool’s gold. You don’t play for the regular season. Obviously, you want to build something. The Clippers won’t reach the Western finals, eclipsing last year’s achievement, by spending everything they have in December and January, but these months show us what this team can do, just how deep they are and this is without their two best players having to chip in too much. Some thought the Clippers were overloading their team with players in the off-season, but the addition of Jamal Crawford, Matt Barnes and the risky Lamar Odom is paying off.
The recipe is pretty simple – When we are at our best, our starters have a great first quarter and our bench elevates that. There’s some sort of urgency and passion in the Clippers’ style over the last month or so that simply wasn’t there in the first weeks of the season or during certain stretches last year. Knowing that not everything is up to them, it seems that Griffin and especially Paul are a lot more loose and willing to pitch in on defense, where the Clippers’ efforts have been lacking in the past.
With a bench filled with guys that could start for half the NBA, there’s no wonder wins are coming in a head spinning pace, and in head spinning fashion. This might be the first team to set up the flashy part of their basketball first, using it to mask the improvement of their fundamentals as the season progresses.
It’s pretty foolish throwing descriptions such as the Best team in the X at this point. In the marathon run that is the NBA season, low points are bound to occur. Knowing they have the kind of depth to keep their starters relatively fresh for the tough spots keeps the Clippers quite confident about their chances to keep this kind of level and win streak going.