LOS ANGELES-Trust. That was the one word being thrown around all over the place in the aftermath of the Los Angeles Clippers dropping an ugly 105-89 decision to the Chicago Bulls way back on Nov. 17. The Clippers sat on a not-so-impressive 5-4 mark after that game, and looked every bit like a team out sync running coach Doc Rivers’ game plan.
Defensive rotations came late. On the offensive end, there was no electricity that gave fans much to cheer about. Sure, there was the occasional lob dunk being point guard Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin. But for sure entertainment value, the Clippers played lackluster at best.
Making the pain of that loss worse was the fact that both Derrick Rose and Pau Gasol didn’t even suit up for the contest, which drew more raised eyebrows about their play at that time. Chicago bulls coach Tom Thibodeau put the game in its proper perspective.
“It’s hard to win on the road,” Thibodeau said. “The Clippers are a great team. They’re hard to guard. They play unselfishly. And they missed some shots they normally make.”
Well, the Clippers are making their shots now and trust or the lack of it appears to be the furthest thing from that Chicago debacle last month. The Clippers are now on a roll, a winning their last nine of 10 games after the disappointing home loss at Staples Center to the Bulls. They’ve won seven in a row after beating up the New Orleans Pelicans Saturday night, defeating the visitors from Louisiana 120-100.
If the Clippers manage to upend the Phoenix Suns Monday before taking off on another road trip, the win streak will move to eight straight. Trust is not why the Clippers are playing better during this current win streak. It’s execution. And lately, that is what the Clippers have been doing: executing. Blake Griffin, who was named the NBA Western Conference Player of the Week, has put on his big boys pants and is bringing the hurt game in and game out.
With 30 points, Griffin inflicted some scoring pain against the Pelicans. The matchup between the Pelicans and Clippers proved to be a game that many folks looked forward to as it pitted Griffin and rising star Anthony Davis against each other. Davis scored 26 points, but his supporting cast could not quite match up with Griffin’s on-court buddies. J.J. Redick caused the Pelicans some headaches as well, scoring 13 of his 21 points in the first quarter as the Clippers built a 34-18 lead.
Davis and Ryan Anderson then went to work and brought the Pelicans from all the way from 18 points down to a 54-54 at halftime. The Clippers regained their composure and dominance in third quarter, outscoring New Orleans 39-24 to bust open the game heading into the fourth quarter. If the previous four games prior to playing the Pelicans is an indicator, the Clippers are playing the type of basketball now that has been expected of them.
Against the Orlando Magic (114-86), Minnesota Timberwolves (127-101), Utah Jazz (112-96) and Houston Rockets (102-85), the Clippers muffed those teams by winning in double-digits. It appears that trust is not the issue anymore with the Clippers. One thing about Rivers is that he has been steadfast in his belief that his team would right the ship. Except for a hiccup against the Memphis Grizzlies, the Clippers are playing at a high level. After that defeat to Chicago, the Clippers embarked on a seven-game road trip and came away with a 6-1 record away from home.
“I do like going on the road,” Rivers said then in his postgame conference. “It’s an opportunity to find yourself. You can also lose yourself.”
The Clippers seemed to have found themselves during that successful road trip.
“I feel good about my team,” Rivers said. “I think we’re going to be a good team. We’ve got to keep trusting.”