The Los Angeles Clippers entered the final game of their eight-game road trip against the Dallas Mavericks on Monday having lost five of seven, including four straight – during which the margin of defeat got progressively worse. Two points at Brooklyn. Eleven points at Cleveland. Sixteen points at Toronto. Twenty-three points at Oklahoma City.
None of that mattered Monday, however, as the Clippers beat the Mavericks – convincingly, we might add – 115-98. And they did it without Blake Griffin, who will miss the next couple of weeks after undergoing elbow surgery to remove a staph infection.
All in all, it was a much-needed win for the Clippers (34-19).
“It definitely (was),” Clippers guard Jamal Crawford said on Ferrall on the Bench. “It was a tough trip. We started off the trip good and then we lost a couple and then we lost Blake. Obviously that was tough. For us, (any win is good). Now we get to go home in front of our home fans and have a game before the All-Star break.”
The Clippers, who host Houston (35-16) on Wednesday at 10:30 p.m. ET, obviously don’t want to lose Griffin for any amount of time, but at least his ailment coincides with the All-Star Break.
“If we had to choose one or the other, I would say this is the best time with him being able to get a few extra days of rest and recovery,” Crawford said. “We’ll just try to hold down the fort until he gets back.”
The Clippers did that and more against Dallas. They led 66-53 at halftime and were never seriously challenged thereafter. Three Clippers scored 20+ points, including Crawford, who had 22 off the bench.
“It was a team effort,” Crawford said. “Even when we made mistakes, we covered for each other. We were flying around on both ends. The ball was hopping. When we do that, we’re a tough team to beat. We have some talented guys. Obviously we have (Chris Paul) as the orchestrator and the general running things out there and we just play around it. And Doc (Rivers) put us in great positions and we did a good job.”
Especially DeAndre Jordan, who finished with 22 points and an eye-popping 27 rebounds, including 11 on the offensive glass.
“Well, DeAndre Jordan is an All-Star; he just isn’t playing in the All-Star game,” Crawford said. “I think his peers look at him as such. We know how important he is. And he does it every single night. But tonight he was just magical. He put together a masterpiece performance.”
And then there was the aforementioned Paul, who had 25 points and 13 assists.
“He was just picking them apart,” Crawford said. “He knew exactly when to score, when to get his teammates involved. I thought he was just the perfect orchestrator tonight, and he did that and he let us to a victory.”
The Clippers are currently sixth in the Western Conference – 8.5 games behind Golden State (41-9) for the top seed, five games behind Memphis (38-13) for the No. 2 seed, and 1.5 games behind Portland (35-17) for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
As Crawford can attest, Los Angeles likes its chances come playoff time – despite what critics have said after this tough road trip.
“We just laugh at it,” he said. “Obviously critics are going to be critics and they’re going to say what they need to say. But for us, we’re harder on ourselves than anybody else can be. We expect a lot out of each other. And we feel like when we’re right and healthy and have everybody, we’re just as good as anybody else out there.”