Building Trust, Clippers Believe They’re Coming Together For Stretch Run


VIDEO: Jamal Crawford leads the Clippers past the Thunder

OKLAHOMA CITY – It’s taken nearly three-quarters of the season, but it seems the Los Angeles Clippers, through injury and inconsistency and now with trade deadline rumors buried, are forging the most important bond a team can form: Trust.

“This is our team,” Chris Paul said. “If we’re going to win it all this is who we’re going to do it with, so if we can’t get on one another and understand that we have one common goal … that’s what winning teams do, they understand it’s nothing personal.

“Our team, we talk a lot more than we used to in the past, try not to leave anything unsaid. We’re a family and we play like that.”

Paul is strengthening his trust in coach Doc Rivers and in forward Blake Griffin. Griffin’s developing greater trust in Paul and, as in Sunday’s 125-117 road win at the Oklahoma City Thunder that required a push of crunch-time execution to complete the job, the Clippers (38-20) are learning to trust in the system.

Perhaps most crucial to success is the bond between L.A.’s two All-Stars. And while no one wishes injury upon anyone, the separated shoulder that sidelined Paul for five weeks until right before the All-Star break may have served a greater purpose.

Griffin, the evolving, 24-year-old power forward, uncorked a phenomenal stretch, and while he remains well under the radar as an MVP candidate behind Kevin Durant and LeBron James, his all-around performances were central to the Clippers going 12-6 without Paul, the league’s assist leader and almost universally regarded as the top point guard in the game.

“The biggest thing is you see me and Blake’s relationship, we talk all game long,” said Paul, who said he didn’t expect to play against the Thunder because of a badly swollen right thumb, yet accumulated 18 points, 12 assists, eight rebounds and one turnover in 39 minutes. “I think we both realize how much we need each other. When I was out I got a chance to really see his growth and how dominant he is. So me, I’m out there to facilitate and pick my spots, but we’re really starting to get that chemistry at the right time.”

Griffin was the youthful, hopeful face of a downtrodden franchise. Paul arrived as the savior. There have been whispers throughout their now three seasons together about whether they liked one another, whether they could play together and succeed together. Griffin said Paul’s absence helped him grasp his larger importance to the team and to emerge with a stronger voice.

“It’s been important for us as a team to learn to have to play without him because I think at times we relied a little bit too much on him,” Griffin said. “At the end of games you kind of think, ‘OK, we have the ball and it’s in our guy’s hands and we’re just going to kind of let him do his thing. I think we really had to rely on our system.

“And for me, really, taking a different approach as far as being a leader for our team and having a little bit more vocal approach with him out, I think it was good for me.”

The Clippers trusted in the system and stuck with it at both ends after blowing a 15-point lead, 95-80, with 2:14 left in the third quarter and taking only a 99-93 margin into the fourth quarter.

Kevin Durant’s 3-pointer gave him a game-high 42 points (with 10 assists) and put the Thunder ahead 115-112 with 2:43 left in the game.

From there, the Clippers closed it out with a 13-2 run in which Paul, Griffin — who didn’t have his best game, but fought through foul trouble for 18 points, seven rebounds and six assists — and Jamal Crawford (36 points and five 3-pointers) combined for the final flurry.

It was a significant win for a team that only evened its road record at 15-15 and hadn’t beaten a top tier team away from Staples Center since Houston way back in November. The Clippers had already stumbled twice out of the All-Star break while reintegrating Paul — much as the Thunder are doing now with Russell Westbrook — including losing at home to a San Antonio team without Tony Parker and then a couple nights later at nemesis Memphis.

On Sunday afternoon they beat OKC’s fourth-rated defense badly in the first half in transition and throughout the game with a 3-ball that was expected to be prolific for them this season, but hasn’t. Matt Barnes went 6-for-10 from deep, and the Clippers believe when J.J. Redick is ready to return (likely before the playoffs) that they’ll finally be the team they always thought they would be — playing with pace, spreading the floor, rolling to the bucket for dunks and launching 3s for quick, momentum-turning scoring bursts.

“It’s funny [we’ve been] trying to get Matt to run to the corners all year and now he’s doing it, and that’s a good shot for him, we can get it in transition,” Rivers said. “And when he does run there, that’s why D.J. [DeAndre Jordan] gets the dunks because the guards have to make a choice, take D.J. or leave the guy in the corner, and it’s really helped us.”

The question facing the Clippers: Can they build off this singular victory as they head into the final 24 games? Paul said they’ll find out Monday night when they play at New Orleans.

Because through 58 games even Rivers said he’s unsure of the kind of team he’s got on his hands.

“I think we know, but I don’t really know,” Rivers said. “We haven’t had a lot of games together. But nobody really cares about it except for us, so we just have to keep working, and if we do get our group together, the minutes that everyone had I have to think it will help our team overall.”


VIDEO: Jamal Crawford talks about the Clippers’ win in Oklahoma City

21 Comments

  1. lowe g says:

    all those teams in the west are in trouble with grizzlies, except for the spurs.

  2. c man says:

    comeon jonathan Crawford has been consistant all year 2nd highest scorer leader with 3s often enough leads the team in games plays many minutes and plays every game often well over 30 minutes and is asked to move from bench to starter and back face it the clips would not have the record they have without Crawford yes he does have his moments thank god and oh yes he now has over 1000 pts this year seems to me he has a whole lot of moments a lot more than most

  3. Hunter says:

    DARK HORSE TEAMS:
    2004 PISTONS
    2011 MAVERICKS
    2014 CLIPPERS

    This team will win the CHAMPIONSHIP.

  4. Will The Real says:

    The Clippers have the potential to be the best team in the league. Clipper fans can only hope that role players such as Crawford, Barnes, and Dudley step up when it comes time for the playoffs.

  5. Oldschooler says:

    The Clippers have a team and coaching staff to get to the finals

  6. josey says:

    Clippers are in the WESTERN CONFERENCE! ITS REALLY TOUGH OVER IN THAT CONFERENCE! THEY BEAT EACH OTHER UP BEFORE THEY EVEN MAKE IT TO THE NBA FINALS! SOMEBODY HAS TO COME OUT OF THE WEST! THE SPURS AREN’T GOOD ENOUGH TO WIN IT ALL! OK IS A GOOD TEAM BUT NOT GOOD ENOUGH TO WIN IT ALL! CANT WAIT FOR THE PLAYOFFS! THE East is garbage except for the HEAT AND THE PACERS! And the packers still aunt good enough to beat the heat! Hibbert and a couple of the packers ain’t good enough yet! Watch and see!

  7. dustydreamnz says:

    I’ve always thought they could atleast win the West, they’re 4th and seem to be getting better.

  8. kittykat says:

    I love both these teams, but I’m an L.A. lady, so whenever these teams meet, I go with the Clippers. Both teams are exciting and talented and that makes these games so special. Who is better? Depends on the night.

  9. steffon says:

    crawford has been averaging 19ppg this season so id say get off your high horse for a sec…he been producing pts as of late.

  10. steffon says:

    haters gonna hate….good game clippers

    • justsayin says:

      Quality win!

      When we get JJ back healthy we’ll be cookin. Hoping they go hard after Granger if he gets bought out. Add him and other potential buyout like E Clark or G Davis and we’re entering the title conversation.

  11. Shawn Kemp no. 1 says:

    they are terrible on defense

  12. okc2014 says:

    No. And neither does the Thunder.

  13. mee(a)t says:

    Does Jamal Crawford play like that every game?

    • Jonathan says:

      Unfortunately no, he has his moments. The Clippers greatness weakness has been inconsistency. The only consistent contributors have been Blake, Collison, and DJ, as of recently. Dudley will heat up for a moment then go cold for several games, same with Barnes.

      • mee(a)t says:

        How unfortunate. Clippers fans can only hope he’ll get hot like that during the Finals.

      • mee(a)t says:

        I mean playoffs haha

      • yeah…they won’t win any championships lol

      • Savoir-Faire says:

        You obviously don’t know what you are talking about Jonathan because Jamal Crawford has been one of the Clippers most consistent players this year .

        Jamal Crawford is averaging 19 ppg this year and is 23 overall in the entire league in scoring .Hes also tied for 6th in made threes this year .

        Since Jan 1st when Paul went out hes been averaging 22 ppg and in February so far he’s averaging 25 ppg . So for you to say that Collison has been more consistent than Crawford is ridiculous because with the injuries Blake and Crawford have basically carried the team along with DJ. .

        Oh and Jamal is one of the top 3-4 4th quarter scorers in the nba so those shots he hits in the 4th he does all the time . Hes basically this year been flying under the radar but hes been outstanding

      • Savoir-Faire says:

        Just stop Jamal Crawford is having a great season and is one for the leading 4th quarter scorers in the nba . Hes averaging 25 ppg in Feb and 19 for the season . Hes been far more consistent than Darren Collison and along with Blake and DJ have carried the team through the injuries

        jamal has played very close to what we saw last night for the past 2 months but no one has noticed because Blake has been playing out of his mind and so jamals play has gone under the radar . Hes been delivering the same sort of play whether he starts or comes of the bench