Clippers week in review: Hitting their stride
The week ahead
On paper, this doesn’t look like a tough week, but Tuesday night the Clippers face a Phoenix Suns that gave them a 19-point beatdown on Dec. 30 at Staples Center. This game is in Phoenix, where the Suns are 20-11. After that, the Clippers face the tail-spinning Lakers on Thursday and the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday at Staples. The Clippers are 25-5 at home, but neither game should be considered a easy.
The week behind
The Clippers sailed through the week, ending a two-game losing streak with wins against Oklahoma City, Houston and New Orleans twice. Beating the Thunder for the second time this season had to rank as the season’s best win since it came on a night Kevin Durant had the first 40-point, 10-assist game of his career. But the Clippers got 20 or more points from Blake Griffin, Jamal Crawford and Matt Barnes, and they had 13 three-pointers.
Record and standings
At 41-20, the Clippers have a 4½-game lead in the Pacific Division and should secure their second division title in a row. More important, they’re fourth in the Western Division and within one game of Portland for third. Their win over the Rockets last week moved them ahead of Houston in the conference. Worth noting: The Clippers close their regular-season schedule against the Trail Blazers on April 16 in what could be a battle for the No. 3 seed in the playoffs.
Clippers coach Doc Rivers handed out laurels Saturday night to forward Matt Barnes, whose defense has been a big reason for the team’s four-game winning streak. Barnes has moved from a backup role to starting small forward and could go back to the bench if newly signed Danny Granger eventually joins the starting five, but his energy and tough play have given the Clippers a boost. He’s shooting well from long distance, too, making 14 of his past 28 three-pointers.
Doc Rivers took the blame for failing to include Granger on his game-night roster Saturday. Granger would have made his Clippers debut in front of a home crowd, but now he’ll have to wait until Tuesday night in Phoenix. Rivers didn’t circle Granger’s name on the list of players that’s submitted to the official scorer before the game, so Granger, who was dressed and ready to go, had to retreat to the locker room for the game.
Doc said Blake's defensive energy to start was "awesome" and Matt Barnes has been "fantastic" defensively for the last week.
— Los Angeles Clippers (@LAClippers) March 2, 2014
Player to watch
Injuries have kept Granger on the bench for most of the past two seasons, but he’ll be expected to ramp up quickly now that he’s with the Clippers. Granger can be a dynamic scorer and outside shooter, something the Clippers need at small forward, but he’ll have to get his conditioning up to speed. How will the Clippers look with him on the floor? That’s what fans are anxious to find out.
Stat of the week
Blake Griffin scored 20 points Saturday night, marking the 19th consecutive game he’s finished with 20 or more. While it pales in comparison to Kevin Durant’s current streak of 32 games of at least 20, it still ties Griffin with Dominique Wilkins for the most by an L.A. Clipper. Wilkins’ streak took place during the 1993-94 season.
"They kicked our butts last time here. … We’ll be ready for them." — Matt Barnes, on Tuesday’s game against the Phoenix Suns, who beat the Clippers 107-88 in December