LOS ANGELES – At times, it seems there is no end to the number of ways the Clippers can score baskets. They throw playground passes, dunk the ball, run the fast break and shoot from long distance – a running highlight film that makes every game more spectacular than the next.
On the night of their franchise-record 12th consecutive win, they did all of that. But they were also just sloppy enough to leave room for criticism after their 97-85 victory over the Sacramento Kings at Staples Center.
Those things happen. The Clippers weren’t perfect, but they weren’t horrible either, defeating a Kings team that is 8-18 and is clearly having its own problems.
“Every win ain’t going to be a good win,” guard Eric Bledsoe said. “We just played sloppy. We had to grind it out.”
But the end result is what matters these days, and the Clippers are taking every win as the natural order of things. They already have 20 victories in 26 games; as recently as the 2008-09 season, one year before they drafted Blake Griffin, they won 19 games all season.
So what’s a little bump in the road? Even a game in which they made 19 turnovers and shot 42.5 percent has its silver lining.
“We found a way to get it done,” coach Vinny Del Negro said. “Obviously, it wasn’t our best performance, but the end result is what we’re looking for.”
To that end, the night was a success. Their win was one better than the previous record of 11 wins in a row set by the 1974-75 Buffalo Braves, a team that had Bob McAdoo and Randy Smith as its stars and was coached by Jack Ramsay.
That team never could have put on the show this Clippers team did. Chris Paul had 24 points and 13 assists, including lob passes to Blake Griffin (21 points), Bledsoe and guard Willie Green. In one scintillating sequence in the second quarter, Bledsoe came from behind to block a layup attempt by Thomas Robinson, Jamal Crawford grabbed the ball, raced down the floor and dished a pass to Ronny Turiaf for a dunk.
The Clippers had a 14-point lead at the half but missed a number of easy shots early in the second quarter and had to rally after Sacramento cut its deficit to six points. The Kings played the entire second half without center DeMarcus Cousins, who scored nine points in the first two quarters but was ordered by coach Keith Smart to stay in the locker room for the remainder of the game.
Smart didn’t elaborate about his decision after the game, but said it was for “conduct detrimental to the team.”
Even without Cousins, the Kings played well enough to keep the game close.
“I thought we came out a little flat,” Griffin said of the third quarter. “We missed some shots we normally make, and when you’re flat like that, you’re only a couple of shots from letting the other team come back.”
There was no need to worry. The Clippers pulled away in the fourth quarter, and Bledsoe’s one-handed slam off a Paul lob with 55 seconds left was the exclamation point.
Lamar Odom, who was drafted by the Clippers in 1999, knows better than anyone how far the team has come. In his rookie season, the team had one 16-game losing streak and three stretches of 10 or more consecutive losses. That club finished the season with a 15-67 mark.
“The record, for me, means a lot,” Odom said. “I was in here before the game letting everybody know exactly what we’re playing for and the meaning of it and why it’s important for us to get it. To start a tradition is big, and we’re start one here.”