LOS ANGELES- Lob City is back in business again. So are the Los Angeles Clippers. After hitting a slumber in their performance over the past few games, the Clippers snapped themselves out of the four-game losing funk they’d been in and soundly defeated the Portland Trailblazers 96-83 at Staples Center.
Without Chris Paul orchestrating the team for the seventh time out of the last nine games, the Clippers went out and played the type of game that would make their injured leader proud. Blake Griffin led the way, scoring 23 points and handing out nine assists. Lamar Odom played perhaps his best game of the season, coming off the bench to score eight points, rip down 13 rebounds and come up with six assists.
Eric Bledsoe, filling in for Paul at the point guard position, kept things flowing, scoring 10 points and dishing off five assists.
The Clippers’ 33rd win of the season, which puts the team 20 games over the .500 mark, looked the way their other victories have looked like. There was great ball movement. Rebounding looked like it was a priority. The Trailblazers felt the wrath of the suffocating defense the Clippers put on them. The Clippers walked away with the win because the team went back to playing the type of basketball that helped them go on a franchise-high 17-game win streak earlier this season.
“We needed any win right now,” Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said afterward. “We’re just trying to accumulate as many wins as we can and then count them at the end of the year and see where we’re at. We played with better intensity tonight. We moved the ball a lot better. We shot better because of our activity defensively, and we guarded the three better and made them feel us a little more than they have been, which I was pleased with.”
Del Negro obviously liked the way his team passed the ball against the Trailblazers. The Clippers’ unselfish play on the night resulted in the team netting 33 assists against Portland.
“Blake with nine, obviously, started kind of like a point-forward for us tonight,” Del Negro said. “Bled had five. Lamar, he knows how to play. He was sharing the basketball as well, with six. Those few guys set the tone, but I think we were unselfish in a lot of areas. Moving the basketball was obviously a key offensively, but more so I thought we were locked in better defensively, which translated to sharper execution.”
After playing tight the first few minutes into the game the Clippers let loose on the Trailblazers. More specifically, Griffin got loose and went hard to the rim all night, throwing down ferocious dunks and running the floor like a younger version of Magic Johnson. Griffin and the rest of the team played as if they wanted to lift that losing streak off their backs, which had become almost parallel to the way the team has played in the month of January.
Coming into the game the Clippers were average at best, recording a 7-7 mark prior to taking on the Trailblazers on their home floor.
The difference between the team playing this month and the one playing in December are two-fold. The Clippers went undefeated in the month of December, going 16-0. From the start of the season to the end of 2012, the Clippers connected on 48 percent of their shots from the field and averaged a shade over 104 points a game and just allowed 89 points scored.
During the month of January that has all changed. All the way up through their loss to the Trailblazers on Saturday, the Clippers’ numbers have dipped to 45 percent field goal shooting, scoring just 98 points while giving up 96 per contest. With a long, winding road trip coming up, those numbers no doubt will have to improve if the Clippers want to stay on the winning track. Sunday night’s win was a good start in that direction.
“Tonight, our first goal was to win the game and that gives us the momentum going forward,” Clippers guard Willie Green said. “Obviously, we have eight games in 14 days coming up and we have to take it one game at a time. We have to just try to pile up as many wins as we can, especially with Chris [Paul] being out.”