After playing the most grueling schedule in the NBA this season, the Clippers get a break as the All-Star game nears. They play just once over an eight-day stretch, taking on the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday night at Staples Center. In fact, over the next 13 days, the Clippers play just three times — a welcome relief for a team that has taken two seven-game road trips in the past two months.
The week behind
In the past seven days, the Clippers experienced a season’s worth of highs and lows. They sustained a heartbreaking loss in Denver last Monday night — losing on a buzzer-beater by Randy Foye — then almost caught the Miami Heat twice before dropping a 116-112 decision on Wednesday. But they wiped out both of those defeats with solid wins against the Toronto Raptors on Friday and Sunday night’s 45-point rout of the Philadelphia 76ers.
Record and standings
At 36-18, the Clippers hold a commanding four-game lead over the Phoenix Suns in the Pacific Division. They remain fourth in the Western Conference, but Wednesday’s game against the No. 3 Blazers (36-15) will give them a chance to cut into their 1.5-game deficit. They lost to Portland in overtime Dec. 26.
Chris Paul returns, the real fun begins as Clippers destroy Sixers READ MORE
No player deserves huzzahs more than Darren Collison, who performed exceptionally well at point guard during Chris Paul’s five-week absence for a separated shoulder. Collison averaged 13.3 points and 6.5 assists as Paul’s fill-in, logging an average of 32.6 minutes a game. Now he can return his focus to coming off the bench and pressuring opponents on defense, which is why the Clippers signed him.
Forward Jared Dudley hasn’t done much to regain his job in the starting lineup, and his name has been mentioned in possible trades as the deadline nears. He scored eight points in 15 minutes against the Sixers, but he’s still shooting just 34.6 percent this month. For a career 47-percent shooter, that’s a big dropoff.
Player to watch
Guard J.J. Redick has suffered through so many injuries, you’ve got to wonder how effective he can be the rest of the season. Redick, an effective shooter when he’s on the court, has sat out three games in a row because of a sore right hip. He’s been able to play in just 30 games this season and is likely to sit out again Wednesday. If he and Paul can get back on the court together, they’ll give the Clippers an effective, dangerous backcourt.
Sunday’s win over Philadelphia was full of franchise records: largest margin of victory, biggest lead at halftime (39 points) and worst shooting by an opponent (27 percent). But the number that stood out most was this: Midway through the third quarter, the Clippers established a 56-point lead, 89-33. That’s the kind of score you’d expect to see in a high school game, not the NBA.
"Everybody really wanted to play hard because Chris came back and we were all excited that he was back. For me, just watching him, it’s a treat." — Jamal Crawford, on the return of Chris Paul after missing 18 games because of a shoulder injury