Clippers rewriting the book on selves

By Fran Blinebury, NBA.com


VIDEO: Clippers rally for 118-107 win in Houston

HOUSTON — The signs and the opportunities were all there.

The night was barely six minutes old when Blake Griffin went to the floor reaching for his back and had to be helped into the locker room by the training staff.

Back spasms.

They hadn’t even played two minutes into the second quarter when Glen “Big Baby” Davis was yanked off the floor by coach Doc Rivers, exchanged a few careless words with the boss and was then escorted to the locker room by security guards.

Lip spasms.

Thirty six seconds later, Houston rookie Isaiah Canaan pulled up to nail a 3-pointer and the hole was 15 points.

This was always the book on how to beat the Clippers. Show them some adversity, get them running their mouths instead of their offense and they’d come unwound like the springs in a cheap watch.

It happened time after time when opposing teams would reach in to push and grab and topple Griffin on one of his rim-rattling sorties to the hoop. It happened when Chris Paul would get caught up in a frenzy and draw technical fouls that didn’t just cost his team points, but let opponents know they were rattling him. It happened after they built a 2-0 lead on the Grizzlies last year in the first round of the playoffs.

Not this time. Not now. Not so much anymore in a season where the Clippers are getting closer, wiser, tougher. Maybe just growing up.

“I think it’s big,” said forward Matt Barnes after a 118-107 comeback win. “I think it’s what we lacked last year. I think it’s a big sign of maturity. It comes from just more experience … I think it’s just a collective effort.

“Last year that was our weakness. We were mentally weak. Collective focus on being mentally tough has got us a long way this year.

“Hats off to our team for putting up with it — the tic-tac fouls and technical fouls and Blake getting beat up. It’s all a tactic by the other team to get us out of our game. So far, I think we’ve done a pretty good job this season to sticking with the course.”

Rivers has brought a much-needed sense of know-how and stability to an organization and a team that won a franchise-record 56 games a year ago, but didn’t really comprehend how to handle or channel the things that make for real success.

The veteran coach and classroom teacher gave another lesson when he didn’t think twice about bouncing Davis from his own lineup, even on a night when Griffin had already been lost.

“Nothing went on with me,” Rivers said. “I thought Baby was just too emotional. For me, if you’re too emotional, I always send you back to the locker room and keep you there till the next game.

“I love Baby. I just didn’t think emotionally he was ready to play tonight. So we told him to go in the locker room.

“I’ve said it about emotional hijacks. If you have one, you’re gonna sit in the back. We’ve talked about that as a group.

“I didn’t make a big deal. I didn’t address it at halftime. It’s not a big deal. We needed him, but he wasn’t here emotionally. So you tell him to go sit.”

While Davis sat and another backup big man Danny Granger was sent back to Los Angeles with a strained hamstring, the Clippers dug deep into the roster for help from Jamal Crawford (also nursing a calf injury), Willie Green, Jared Dudley, Reggie Bullock, Ryan Hollins, even Hedo Turkoglu to close out a 4-0 sweep of the season series over the Rockets and to officially clinch a spot in the playoffs.

The Rockets were playing without the injured Dwight Howard (ankle) and Patrick Beverley (knee), but these are different days, different times, for the Clippers, when making the playoffs is no longer the goal. And if they are going to finally get over that playoff hurdle, this is how they’ll have to do it.

“I look at all that stuff as good stuff for us,” Rivers said. “Blake goes down. Jamal’s going in and out. That stuff’s good for us. We don’t want it. We don’t want any of it.”

They’ll simply live with it and move on.

The Clippers played 19 games when Paul was out with a separated shoulder and not only stayed afloat, but rose. J.J. Redick has missed 44 games and hasn’t played at all since early February due to a bulging disc and they’ve had others step up to hit the outside shots. Crawford’s ongoing leg problems could force Rivers to sit him down the stretch to make sure he’s fully healed and ready for the playoffs. They thought they’d get more of a bump when they signed Granger as a free agent, but that has not happened.

Yet they’ve won eight of their last 10 and — depending on the prognosis on Griffin’s back — seem to have a firm hold on the No. 3 seed in the West. He and DeAndre Jordan are the only two to play in every game this season.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been on a team like this,” Paul said. “I think when guys come to the arena they’re just ready. It’s happened all season long. Nobody’s ever sitting over there not expecting to play. Guys know that their number might be called.

“On a lot of teams, when a guy goes down, guys start looking for excuses and stuff like that. I’ve been on teams like that. But our teams, it’s, ‘all right, we know what to do. You know what your role is.’ “

Experience, wisdom, being disciplined and mentally tougher rather than simply talking tough are steadily becoming valued traits.

Maybe it’s time to think about rewriting that old book on the Clippers.

“I think so,” said Paul. “It’s not just a few of our guys. It’s the whole team. From guys like Willie Green, Matt, Dud, guys coming in, guys like that. We’re playing with a purpose.”


VIDEO: Jamal Crawford talks about Clips’ win, stretch run

15 Comments

  1. c man says:

    doc just do what it takes to get all healthy must have all hands on deck

  2. Tom says:

    Clippers look strong but unless they make it into the conference finals, they will never be considered an elite team despite tying for the 3rd best record in the NBA at the moment.

    They really need to advance deep into the Playoffs. Last season was a joke for them. They collapsed in the first round after a record breaking season with the most wins in franchise history. Clippers need to erase that and really show dominant force to make people realize this team is no joke. Otherwise, the Clippers are doomed for another disastrous year.

  3. Migs says:

    they still cant win & games, they crying and falling on the flopping will hurt them just .like running their mouths

  4. Lob City says:

    Now available In stores Clippers Playoff Tees Slogan ” CLIPPERS OWN THE PLAYOFFS” red/blue. This time Spurs Vs. Clippers West Finals then Miami vs. Clippers Conf Finals = Clippers 2013-2014 champions! Enjoy these everyone!

  5. Brett says:

    Chris Paul has had the highest playoff PER in two of the last three seasons…Little known fact. He consistently plays incredible basketball in the postseason. To say otherwise is ignorant or dishonest. People like to exaggerate their expectations in an attempt to set the bar where Paul and the Clips are likely to not clear it. People saying conference finals or bust are who I’m talking about. Clips would be upsetters if they beat the Thunder or the Spurs.

  6. random kid says:

    i couldnt focus on the highlights because of that guy’s commentary…. come on now his voice is too distracting

  7. okc2014 says:

    Big baby needed his pacifier when Doc Rivers sent him to the locker room. Baaaaaa!

  8. juju says:

    as long as they dont meet the grizzlies…

  9. Brandon says:

    I am sorry but the commentator for the highlights was terrible

  10. Tom Pittman says:

    Fantastic post, Fran. One of your best. I loved it; thanks.

  11. CharlesChristian says:

    Jamal Crawford is ONE of MY FAVORITE PLAYERS

  12. Clips says:

    Only reason I’m really paying attention to the NBA is the Clippers … just a cool bunch of guys, great to watch, very entertaining, so I hope they win it all, but with the Spurs, Thunder, Heat and Pacers out there … it’s not an easy year to take a championship.

    Whoever wins, it’s been an awesome season.

  13. Bball7 says:

    Watching the game last night, Chris Paul is one of the biggest floppers in the NBA. Not hating, Harden is too and my team is the Rox

  14. Ktr says:

    This talk is all good; but cp3 still never got out to conference finals as “the league’s best pg” he needs to prove himself at big stage. At nearly 30, that is a weak career considering all the hype.

  15. Common Sense says:

    Clippers are beating strong teams. Houston got a bunch of credit for going on a 5 game win streak against a bunch of duds. Clippers just beat the Mavs in Dallas and Rockets in Houston. Not to mention the win streak against a bunch of Oks and good teams. Clippers have a good chance. Get JJ back and stay healthy, don’t count them out, this aint the same team