LOS ANGELES — The most notable fact about the Clippers this season isn’t that they’re beating good teams. It’s that they were losing to bad ones.
The Heat, Spurs, Grizzlies and Lakers? No problem. The Hornets and Cavaliers? For some inexplicable reason, the Clippers sank to various levels of incompetency.
But it’s possible they finally figured out what they were doing wrong. Saturday night, they got off to a fast start, kept the pressure on the entire game and finished off a 116-81 rout of the Sacramento Kings at Staples Center.
All of a sudden, that recent four-game losing streak they endured doesn’t seem like a reason to panic.
“We needed a win like that,” forward Blake Griffin said. “And to be what I thought was pretty good from start to finish was good for our confidence. At the same time, you’re not going to have every game like that.”
Probably not, but this was still good for their psyche, even though it came against a Kings team that has lost nine of its past 12 games and is 4-12 overall. A win is a win.
The Clippers did just about everything right. They scored a season high in points, shot 54.7 percent from the floor and made just five turnovers. None of their starters played more than 29 minutes, and their bench, which had been recently lapsed into something quite ordinary, contributed 58 points.
In other words, this was pretty much a mismatch.
“They have a group of players that play together, and they have a bigger purpose with what they’re doing and how they’re playing, and they show it,” Kings coach Keith Smart said. “We didn’t have what was necessary to play against a team like this.”
The Clippers missed five of their first six shots, but they quickly pushed ahead with a 14-2 run that essentially put away the game. They led by 24 at the half and by 29 after three quarters.
In his second game back after missing nine months with a torn left Achilles tendon, Chauncey Billups had six points and three assists in 18 minutes and gave the Clippers a guiding hand in the backcourt with teammate Chris Paul.
The Clippers had seven players in double figures, including Jamal Crawford with 17. And although Lamar Odom had only six points, he played perhaps his best game this season with five rebounds and five assists in 21 minutes.
It was the type of game Odom said he’s been waiting for, a chance to contribute in a number of ways.
“I never put all my eggs in one basket,” he said. “I’ve always played basketball, not just score or just rebound or just assist. I’ve always played the game. If I’m open, shoot it. If I see the ball come off the rim, rebound it. If I see somebody open, I’m going to pass it.”
That was a theme the entire team used — and they did it all night.
“I think we just came out aggressive, on both the offensive and defensive end,” Paul said. “We didn’t really let them in the game early. We got out in transition and we just executed. The ball moved and everybody touched the ball. We’re pretty dangerous when that happens.”
When it doesn’t, that’s when the Clippers are in trouble. Now they take a two-game winning streak Monday night to Utah — one of the toughest road venues in the league.
“It’s a tough place to play,” Griffin said, “but not impossible.”