It seems like it’s been that way ever since Chris Paul first donned the Clipper red, white and blue.
Once again, the Clippers broke their franchise record for wins at home and overall in a season on Tuesday night, defeating the Nuggets 117-105 for their 34th home win and 57th win overall.
As has often been the case whenever the Clippers have broken a record this season, coach Doc Rivers maintained a tone of indifference. In his eyes, the benchmark is a small stepping stone on the Clippers’ path to the ultimate prize: a championship.
"It’s nice, don’t get me wrong," Rivers said. "I’m very happy that we’re doing stuff, but it’s not what we want. To get what you want sometimes you get other stuff, I guess, is the best way to put it. Like I said before the game, winning the division is part of the stuff you get in the march to what you really want."
The game itself was somewhat dull, as the undermanned Nuggets only had eight players available, and the Clippers decided to rest their starters in the fourth, despite Denver closing within five late.
But that’s not what’s important. Los Angeles won handedly, and got to rest its key players while also preserving their rhythm.
While there’s a slight chance the No. 2 seed is up for grabs — Oklahoma City would have to lose at home to Detroit, and then L.A. would have to win — the Clips are going to rest guys tomorrow and probably concede the game, depending on what Portland does.
Here are five takeaways from tonight’s game:
It’s raining 3s
The Clippers’ impressive record when making at least nine 3-pointers (34-1) lives on. Of greater importance is that Chris Paul (3 of 5) and J.J. Redick (4 of 6) were the main culprits. Paul has struggled with 3s on the season — but shot better recently — and Redick has yet to regain his elite shooting form since returning from injury. This is a step in the right direction.
It’s no secret that there has been some underlying tension with Glen Davis. He hasn’t played as many minutes as he’d like, and he’s still battling to get back into shape. Tonight was one of his more productive games. His nine points and six rebounds in only 12 minutes helped tilt the contest in the Clippers’ favor, as his +/- of +9 reflects. L.A. doesn’t need much from him from offensively — they just need rebounding and defense — so anything he provides on that end is gravy.
In all likelihood, the Clippers will face the Warriors — who run a 4-out, 1-in offense — in the first round. With only three big men available, the Nuggets often went small and ran a similar system, which the Clippers defended effectively. The Nuggets threw up plenty of prayers from deep (29 3-point attempts), but only connected on a few (27.6 percent). There were too many breakdowns in the third quarter, but outside of that, L.A. was mainly locked in on its rotations.
Rivers has alluded to resting his players and managing their minutes over the last few games, and he managed to keep every starter under 31 minutes other than Jordan (he played 36). Blake Griffin and Redick won’t make the trip to Portland tomorrow, and Paul will be a game-time decision. It’s difficult to glean much when the starters are playing so few minutes, but tomorrow’s game in Portland will prove to be a major test for L.A.’s inconsistent second unit.
Something to keep an eye on
Griffin picked up a technical foul, his 16th of the season, late in the second quarter by accidentally swiping Timofey Mozgov in the face. The NBA will review the play, and has the option to rescind it. If the call holds up, Griffin will be suspended for tomorrow’s game, even though he won’t be making the trip up north anyway. In the postseason, seven technicals warrants a suspension. That may seem excessive, but Griffin could wrack up a handful just in the Golden State series. Watch out for this.