LOS ANGELES — The occasion of their 50th victory was greeted with a collective shrug in the Clippers locker room Monday night.
Their coach, Doc Rivers, didn’t even realize it. His players barely acknowledged it.
Maybe it says something about how far the Clippers have come, from an organization of perennial failures to one that expects success. From downtrodden to riding high.
"It doesn’t mean anything if you don’t advance in the playoffs," forward Matt Barnes said. "This team has come a long way, but we’re not taking moral victories, we’re not taking winning streaks. We want to advance, and we know we have a good enough team to win a championship. That’s our goal."
Blake on 50 wins: "Compared to [my 1st couple of years here], it's an accomplishment and hopefully we make that a staple every single year"
Fifty wins? It’s just a number. But getting there was a struggle Monday night. The Clippers were unable to put away the Milwaukee Bucks, who arrived at Staples Center with the NBA’s worst record (13-58), but still pulled out a 106-98 win.
"It’s not going to be pretty every night," guard Chris Paul said, "but tonight it was ‘do whatever you have to do to win.’ "
It should have been much easier, but the Clippers, who once led by 15 in the opening quarter, led by just two early in the fourth. They struggled defensively to close down the middle to Milwaukee’s guard, especially Ramon Sessions, who scored 28 points.
Blake Griffin had a team-high 27 points and 14 rebounds, and Paul had 14 and seven assists.
"At the end of the day, we won the game," Rivers said. "I’ll take that. Sometimes guys are ready for these games, sometimes they’re not."
The Clippers were not, but they have still won eight consecutive home games, and the win was their 13th overall in 14 games. Now they head back on the road for five games, then play five of their final six at Staples.
Their 31-5 home record it the best in the Western Conference.
"We’ve been saying since the early part of the season that we want to make this a tough place to play," Paul said. "So we’re going to keep needing the crowd and that energy. We want this to really be home-court advantage."
Last season’s Clippers team was the first in franchise history to win 50 games. It finished the regular season 56-26 but didn’t reach the 50-win plateau until April 3, in its 76th game.
This team did it in 71 games. Still, it was news to Rivers.
"I didn’t know it," he said. "It’s nice to win 50 games. I’m glad you told me."
Then he added, "Heck, it’s the only way we can be in the spot we’re in. We’ve got to get a lot more wins it looks like because everybody’s winning. So we’ve just got to keep winning games to get home court and keep home court."
That’s the goal. But there’s more.
"It’s a good thing, a starting point," guard Darren Collison said. "But I think that’s not the end goal. The end goal is to win it all."