Solid road trip a good sign for Clippers
The final night of a long, laborious road trip was probably the best.
The Clippers ended it with a flourish, beating the Bucks 114-86 on a frigid Monday night in Milwaukee and giving themselves a sense of pure satisfaction as they boarded their return flight home.
Twelve days, seven games, five wins. It was exactly what they could have hoped for, maybe even more.
The Clippers have not been a particularly efficient road team, but going 5-2 and ending with three consecutive wins should confirm that they can become one. Since beginning their annual Grammy trips in 2000, they have never won as many as five games; in fact, they haven’t won five road games on a single trip since January 1990.
But now, the worst of the road is behind them. This season, the Clippers have been forced to play two seven-game trips, highly unusual in the NBA, and they’re both over. Of their remaining 35 regular-season games, only 15 will be away from Staples Center, where their 18-3 record is better than every team in the league but Indiana, Miami and Oklahoma City.
And they don’t play east of the Rockies again until Feb. 21, a relief for a team that was in the eastern time zone all of last week.
Clippers cap 7-gm trip with 114-86 romp over Bucks in Milwaukee. Finish trip 5-2. Best Gramy trip ever. 4-4 last year. Home to Wash. Wed.
— Ralph Lawler (@Ohmeomy) January 28, 2014
There were doubts they could do this. On their previous seven-game road swing, the Clippers went 4-3 and were dissatisfied by the results. They dropped games at Atlanta, Cleveland and Brooklyn, all winnable, and lapsed at critical moments.
Their improvement is a good sign for a team that wants to peak when the playoffs begin in April. They are defending well and shooting incredibly well, with their three-point accuracy off the charts.
Against the Bucks, the Clippers made 14 of 28 threes. On Saturday, they made 12 of 22 at Toronto. And last Friday, they converted 13 of 21.
Certainly, they could have assumed their finale against Milwaukee would allow them to coast. The short-handed Bucks have just eight wins this season. They began the night with a 1-11 record in January and a 1-13 mark against Western Conference teams.
But the Clippers pushed hard from the start, using a 28-7 run at the end of the second quarter to take a 64-31 lead at the half and stretching it to 39 points in the fourth quarter.
— Willie Green (@DetroitWillie34) January 28, 2014
"To go 5-2 after being 2-2 is great," coach Doc Rivers told Prime Ticket after the game. "We talked about it after that loss (to Charlotte last Wednesday), and I said, ‘Guys, it’s a 2-2 trip. We have a chance to turn it into a great trip.’ And we did, which was nice."
It was better than nice. And to think, they still don’t have point guard Chris Paul, who remains out with a separated right shoulder.
But in his absence, the Clippers are 9-3.
That, and their success on this road trip, should carry them far.