Paul, Clippers net 8th straight win
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP)
For now he's not going to think about and just enjoy the ride.
Paul had 19 points and 10 assists as the Clippers defeated the Charlotte Bobcats 100-94 Wednesday night for their eighth straight win, their longest streak in 21 seasons.
''It's cool,'' Paul said. ''It just means we're playing all right now. But we're not satisfied. We have to keep playing the right way and keep this thing going. Sometimes you're going to win and play bad and sometimes you're going to play well and lose. For us it's all about being consistent.''
Blake Griffin and Matt Barnes also scored 19 points in a balanced scoring attack for the Clippers, who maintained sole possession of first place in the Pacific Division.
It was by no means a thing of beauty as the Clippers struggled to put the Bobcats away one night after a tough win in Chicago.
''It was kind of one of those grind-it-out games,'' Griffin said. ''But those are the type of games you have to win if you're going to be a great team.''
Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said his team certainly didn't play its best game by any stretch, but left thrilled to extend the win streak - Los Angeles' longest since an eight-game run during the 1991-92 season.
''I think it's a good sign for us that we're finding ways to win,'' Del Negro said. ''Everyone is contributing, locking really hard when we need to and making sure we're consistent on some things. We just got to get a little sharper.
''You know we missed a lot of easy shots tonight, a lot of layups, a lot of floaters, a lot of fast breaks - things we usually convert. But we battled. We got stops at the end and that is what counts.''
Byron Mullens had 19 points and eight rebounds and Kemba Walker chipped in with 17 points to lead the Bobcats, who have lost nine straight since starting the season 7-5.
Charlotte trailed 78-71 entering the fourth quarter and got as close as three before Barnes scored on a fast break dunk off an alley-oop pass from Jamal Crawford. Barnes followed up by knocking down a 3-pointer from the corner on the next possession to push the lead back to eight.
Charlotte could never make another serious run at the lead getting no closer than five due in large part to shooting just 32 percent from the field in the final period. The Bobcats also turned it over three times in the fourth, leading to seven points for the Clippers.
Coach Mike Dunlap said his team is understandably ''frustrated'' but believes it will keep improving as they gain more experience.
''Offensively we had some turnovers and that's our Achilles,'' said Dunlap, in his first year with the Bobcats. ''We've got to learn how to be down three or five (points) and execute in those situations.''
Added Bobcats guard Gerald Henderson: ''A couple of times we were close right in there. We either couldn't get a stop or got a little stagnant on offense and couldn't make a shot. But, that's the kind of basketball we kind of need to play, is scrappy, and get after it and just fight. I mean, that's a tough team. That's a really tough team.''
Paul struggled from the field hitting just 5 of 13 shots, but had a big 3 in the fourth to essentially put the game away.
Griffin had some magnificent dunks early on, including a baseline move to get by Bismack Biyombo before curling up on the other side of the rim, elevating and slamming it home hard.
Griffin also did it on the defensive end.
When Mullens tried to dunk over Griffin, the Clippers' star deflected the ball and it got wedged between rim and the backboard resulting in a jump ball at midcourt.
With his former coach at Kentucky, John Calipari, sitting courtside, Bobcats rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist looked sharp in the early going and finished with 11 points and eight rebounds for the Bobcats. Kidd-Gilchrist attacked the rim strong, but his awkward-looking jump shot continues to be an issue that'll need to be addressed.
Calipari said Kidd-Gilchrist will be an ''unbelievable player'' at the NBA level when he gets a few years under his belt.
''He's going to get better and better and better because he works,'' Calipari said. ''The motor that he has and the toughness and the will to win, that's something you can't invent or fake.''
The Clippers took a 49-44 lead at the break with 34 points coming inside the paint and 10 of those off fast breaks. The Bobcats, meanwhile, didn't score at all in transition in the first half.
Notes: North Carolina Tar Heels football coach Larry Fedora was attended the game. ... Walker came in averaging 22 points in his last five games and has scored in double digits in all but one of his 21 games. ... Bismack Biyombo has had at least eight rebounds in five straight games. ... It was Paul's ninth double-double of the season. .. The Clippers had a season-high-tying 17 offensive rebounds.