Clippers building team bonds as they lock in the wins

The L.A. team, known for its depth, is tied for second-best record in the NBA. Players give one another advice and cheer teammates on. 'It's … like family,' Chris Paul says. 'We're always discussing what we can do better.'

December 18, 2012|By Broderick Turner

Ten-game winning streaks can do a lot for a team.

The Clippers are now tied for the second-best record (18-6) in the NBA with the New York Knicks. And the Clippers' winning streak is the second-longest in the league this season, one behind the Oklahoma City Thunder, which has the best record in the league (20-4).

On Wednesday the Clippers play New Orleans at Staples Center, and with a win they can tie the franchise record for most consecutive victories at 11, held by the 1974-75 Buffalo Braves.

"Obviously, the whole year they've gotten great bench play," Detroit Pistons Coach Lawrence Frank said of the Clippers. "When you're able to sit Chris Paul and Blake Griffin in fourth quarters of games, that speaks volumes about how well your team is playing, the depth of talent.

"They've taken that next step. They're obviously for real."

Quite often Paul will pull aside young teammates Griffin and DeAndre Jordan and instruct the Clippers' front-court players on how to adjust during the game.

It's also not uncommon to see veteran shooting guard Chauncey Billups counsel Paul, Eric Bledsoe, Jamal Crawford and Lamar Odom on how to get the best out of themselves. And this team self-instruction continues when Odom encourages Griffin and Jordan on how to become better low-post players.

Their willingness to engage and sacrifice has made the Clippers a close-knit group, and that has helped define who they are.

"When you see us out there on the court talking about something, it's not always arguing," Paul said. "But it's sometimes healthy arguing. You need that. It's just like siblings and just like family. We're always discussing what we can do better."

It's a formula that has worked for the Clippers. It has helped that they are talented and have one of the deepest teams in the NBA.

"The wins are obviously what we're trying to do," Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro said. "But finding different ways to win, learning as a unit how to win when we don't have our best stuff, getting after it more defensively, getting some cohesion with the first and second group, it's been good."

Sometimes the starters have gotten off to poor starts and the reserves picked up the pace and led the team to victories. Other times the reserves haven't played as well and the starters took the controls.

And sometimes All-Stars Paul and Griffin played like, well, All-Stars in leading the Clippers.

So far this season, the Clippers have three players scoring in double figures — Griffin (18.0), super-sub Jamal Crawford (16.5) and Paul (16.0) — plus four other players averaging at least nine points: reserve Matt Barnes (9.9), starter Caron Butler (9.7), reserve Eric Bledsoe (9.7) and Jordan (9.6).

"I think they are one of the deepest teams in the league," said Toronto guard DeMar DeRozan, whose Raptors were the sixth team to succumb during the Clippers' winning streak. "They have a lot of players that have been, or are capable of being, starters on other teams. They all play their game."

And their game is to beat the opponent in a variety of ways.

category Avg. Rank Scoring 101.6 8th Points allowed 93.1 4th Assists 23.0 3rd Steals 10.7 1st Blocks 6.2 7th Turnovers 14.5 9th

On offense, the Clippers average 101.63 points per game, eighth-best in the NBA.

They share the basketball too, averaging 22.96 assists per game, third-best in the league. Paul directs that offense, and he's second in the league with 9.2 assists a game.

"We've just got to keep getting better," Barnes said. "We know if we control the defensive end, we're a hard team to stop on the offensive end."

On defense, the Clippers have given up a stingy 93.08 points per game, fourth-best in the NBA. They also average 10.67 steals per game, which leads the NBA, and 6.21 blocks per game, seventh-best in the league.

"I think defensively, they've been very, very good," Pistons Coach Frank said.

The Clippers are also finding success on the road, where they are 8-3 this season.

They just finished a four-game trip in which they won all of their games, pushing their streak to five consecutive road wins, tying the franchise record also held by Buffalo during the '74-75 season.

"Sometimes you bond a little bit on the road," Del Negro said. "But none of these games are easy, per se, because you have to make plays and we were able to do that. I'm just proud of the way the guys hung in. Now we've got to get back and protect our home court."

The Clippers expect to hit some bumps along the way, but they like the trust they have built.

It's a common practice for them to slap five with the teammate they are replacing in the game. They all cheer for one another, the starters for the reserves and vice versa.

And they often go to the movies and dinner as a group, building that bond away from the court.

"We've still got a ways to go," Paul said. "We still can definitely get better. But like I always say, you don't have to lose to learn a lesson. We'll look at the film and see what we need to do better. But it's good to win and learn at the same time."

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