Only twice since moving to the West Coast have the Los Angeles Clippers won at least 10 games in a row. The first occasion came last season, when the Clips completed a perfect month of December as part of a 17-game streak.
L.A.'s defense was strong throughout, forcing 20 turnovers and converting them into 31 points. But the offense struggled to get untracked in the first half amidst a flurry of long arms and athletic legs on the part of the Jazz. The Clippers scored just 43 points on 40 percent shooting before the break, with nary a single player scoring in double figures.
But, like any championship hopeful facing a lottery-bound opponent, the Clips battled back, even when they weren't at their best. Chris Paul came to L.A.'s rescue in the third quarter, scoring or assisting on six straight Clipper field goals as part of a 17-2 run to close out the frame.
Paul kept relatively quiet thereafter on account of an ankle sprain but found Blake Griffin (20 points, five rebounds, five assists), Matt Barnes (15 points, three assists) and Darren Collison (14 points, four assists, two steals) prepared to pick up the slack.
"I knew I had just had to find a way," Paul said after the game (per the Associated Press). "We already said at halftime, it's not going to be pretty every night, but stay the course and find a way to win."
It was a solid, collective effort, though hardly the most aesthetically pleasing or most impressive of the Clippers' current run. The first of L.A.'s 10 recent wins came on the road against the Oklahoma City Thunder. The third came at the expense of the then-red-hot Houston Rockets at Staples Center. The sixth was a franchise-record 48-point pounding of the rival Los Angeles Lakers while the purple-and-gold banners were well within sight. The ninth featured Griffin going for 30-15-3 with three steals to topple the Golden State Warriors in L.A.
Since their streak began, the Clips have been the NBA's best on both ends of the floor; they've scored 114.1 points per 100 possessions while limiting the opposition to 98 points per 100 possessions on the other end. That's the sort of all-around excellence that head coach Doc Rivers was brought in to foster, as was the perseverance that carried the Clippers to victory in Salt Lake City.
Those qualities could come in handy as L.A. looks to extend its streak to a new franchise record. A Sunday stroll past the Cleveland Cavaliers, who've shocked the Suns and the Warriors in their last two games, would tie the Clips' ongoing run for the second-longest in team history, when the then-Buffalo Braves claimed 11 straight in November 1974.
L.A. would have to complete its second undefeated month ever in March to top the 17-gamer that came during the team's first such stretch last season. The caliber of competition could very well oblige. Only two of L.A.'s next eight games will come against foes that currently find themselves in the postseason picture. Those two contests (at Dallas and at Houston), while tough in their own right, come against clubs that have yet to beat the Clippers this season.
To be sure, L.A.'s streak could end well before that. Once they've wrapped things up against the Cavs on Sunday, the Clips will head to Denver for the dreaded second night of a back-to-back against the Nuggets.
Though, given the Nuggets' 16-16 home record this season, that trip to the Mile High City might not be as daunting as it once was.
The Clippers' biggest impediment until the postseason? An April 9 home date against the Oklahoma City Thunder, who should be plenty hot with Russell Westbrook rounding into form and plenty motivated to preserve their prime seeding for the Western Conference playoffs. Should the Clips slip up against OKC, their streak will have run its course at a whopping 21 games, which would make it the fourth-longest in league history.
In truth, the extent to which this streak continues has less to do with who and where the Clippers play and everything to do with what they do.
Even more so when considering that this team has plenty of room for improvement. Glen Davis, Danny Granger and Hedo Turkoglu have done well to nudge Ryan Hollins and Jared Dudley out of the rotation, but those three in-season signings are still finding their way through Rivers' flow from game to game. Jamal Crawford's missed six of L.A.'s last seven outings on account of a calf injury. J.J. Redick's been absent from the entire 10-gamer while coping with a bulging disk in his lower back.
There's no telling yet when Redick will return, or if he will in time for the playoffs. But Crawford should be good to go in relatively short order, and L.A.'s buyout trio figure to be even better by the time the postseason rolls around in mid-April.
As astounding as it would be to see the Clippers—THE CLIPPERS!!!—storm into their third straight playoff appearance with more wins in a row than their more decorated downtown L.A. co-tenants have accrued all season, you can bet CP3, the Flying Lion and company will be far more concerned with how many W's they rack up once the field narrows to 16.
Because that's what the 2013-14 campaign has been about from the get-go for the Clippers. They can set all the franchise records they want, but with two superstars, a superb supporting cast and the highest-paid coach in the NBA in tow, there's only one achievement that would actually matter.
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