LOS ANGELES — The Clippers had another Lob City moment Sunday night. But this time, it was DeAndre Jordan who left fans and teammates gasping at Staples Center.
Jordan’s one-handed dunk off an alley-oop pass from Chris Paul in the second quarter was the video highlight of the Clippers’ 129-97 win over the Detroit Pistons, a victory that moved them back into third place in the Western Conference with 17 games left in the regular season.
“That was the best dunk of the year,” forward Blake Griffin said. “It’s the best dunk I’ve seen in person.”
Last week, Griffin and Jamal Crawford teamed for a spectacular dunk when Crawford passed the ball between his legs and flipped it behind him to Griffin, who slammed in a two-handed dunk against the Milwaukee Bucks.
This one was even more impressive.
“I have not seen it yet,” Jordan said afterward, “but from the oohs and ahhs from the crowd, I guess it was pretty good.”
The Clippers are hitting the stretch run of the season with a sense of confidence, and not just because they’re getting some blowout wins and throwing down slam dunks, although they had 13 against the Pistons.
Their 129 points were a season high. They shot a season-best 62.5 percent, had 37 assists on 50 baskets, and totaled 13 steals while committing just nine turnovers. All five starters scored in double figures, including Griffin, who had 22 points in 21 minutes, and Chris Paul, who had 20 and 14 assists.
“I thought our focus and our intensity from the jump was much better in a lot of areas,” coach Vinny Del Negro said. “It made us a lot crisper.”
Even so, injuries continue to be worrisome. Forward Caron Butler, who had 15 points, suffered an injury to his left elbow in the third quarter, left the game immediately and didn’t return. The team described it as a contusion, but Del Negro said Butler was still in pain after the game and would undergo an MRI exam on Monday.
Crawford (sore left ankle) sat out his second consecutive game, and Eric Bledsoe was scratched because of a sore left calf.
There’s ample time to get them all back, assuming Butler’s injury isn’t serious. The Clippers play just once more this week, but it’s a significant matchup — Wednesday night at home against the Memphis Grizzlies, who trail them by one game in the race for the third seed in the conference.
Seeding could mean everything once the playoffs begin.
“It’s very important,” Paul said. “But we’ve got to take them one game at a time and keep building. Now is the time, probably the last 10 games or so when you really start jockeying for position. Right now, we’re just talking about building, making sure we’re playing the right way at the right time.”
Still, there was time to enjoy Jordan’s phenomenal dunk, which came against Brandon Knight, the Detroit guard who is listed at 6-foot-3, 189 pounds. Knight tried his best to block the shot, but he wound up flat on his back as Jordan caught Paul’s lob behind his head and threw down the ball. Then he stomped away in triumph. (For the record, Jordan is listed at 6-11, 265 pounds.)
The first player to greet him was Butler, who gave him a bear hug.
“That was the fastest I’ve ever seen Caron move when he ran to give me a chest bump,” Jordan said, “so I guess it was OK.”
It was more than that. Griffin, arguably the best dunker in the game, gave it his stamp of approval.
“It was a great read, great play, great pass and an even better finish,” he said.
Asked his reaction, Griffin, who was not in the game at the time, said, “I didn’t know what to do. I was just running around. I honestly couldn’t believe it for a while. Then Vinny told me not to get a technical, so I had to calm down.”
The Clippers showed the play several times on the video screen above the court. Knight watched, hands on hips, without expression. So did his teammates, who trailed by 18 points at the half and by 28 after three quarters. The Clippers’ largest lead in the game was 34 points.
“You’ve got to protect the basket, but DeAndre Jordan is super athletic and made a hell of a play,” Pistons forward Jonas Jerebko said. “You know, Brandon did what he could, but when you’ve got a player like that and he gets an opportunity, and as athletic as he is, it was an amazing play by him.”