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Clippers' victory leaves a mark

Clippers set a franchise record with 12th consecutive win, a grind-it-out 97-85 decision over Sacramento.

December 21, 2012|By Lisa Dillman

Minnesota, Sacramento, Utah, Dallas, Phoenix, Toronto, Chicago, Charlotte, Milwaukee, Detroit, New Orleans, and, again, Sacramento.

Twelve games and 12 victories in an electric and eclectic march toward Christmas for the Clippers. On Friday, they set a franchise record with their 12th consecutive win, beating Sacramento, 97-85, as they staved off the persistent Kings at Staples Center.

Farewell, Buffalo.

Buffalo was the birthplace of this franchise before it moved to San Diego and then Los Angeles. The Buffalo Braves had won 11 consecutive games in 1974 before losing to Chicago in a bid for 12.

The final 12 minutes against the Kings, frankly, felt a lot longer for jittery Clipper fans, who were finally able to relax with about a minute and a half left with the Clippers leading by double digits.

"We battled through it. We couldn't really get any rhythm offensively," Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro said. "We had way too many turnovers. But we found a way to win."

This was a mix of the brilliant — a series of highlight dunks and an amazing blocked shot from behind in the first half from reserve guard Eric Bledsoe — and botched plays. Plus, 20 turnovers.

It may not have been the most artful of the 12 victories but part of the charm of the winning streak has been the Clippers' creativity as they moved to 20-6. Sacramento (8-18) has won only once on the road.

"Every game is like a different script," guard Jamal Crawford said.

Except it has been the same ending since late November. The Clippers have not lost since Nov. 26 when the Hornets beat them, 105-98. This matched the NBA's longest win streak this season. Oklahoma City's 12-game streak was stopped by Minnesota on Thursday.

The bench bailed the Clippers out several times during the 12-win run. Friday, the communal effort was there again but the biggest catalysts were none other than Chris Paul and Blake Griffin.

Paul had 24 points, 13 assists, five steals and five rebounds and was his dazzling best early on with seven assists in the first quarter. Griffin had 21 points and 13 rebounds — his 11th double-double of the season — and was impressive with his mid-range jumper in the opening half.

"That's what All-Stars do," Del Negro said. "I expect that from them. They expect it. Their teammates do. They're more than capable of doing it. That's what stars in this league do.

"They had to finish the game out for us and make some plays down the stretch."

Said Bledsoe: "Every win's not going to be [pretty]. You're going to have to grind it out. We played sloppy tonight. No way to hide that. We just didn't take care of the ball."

Meanwhile, there was the usual dose of drama with the Kings, who were led by Jimmer Fredette's 16 points off the bench.

It involved the often problematic DeMarcus Cousins. Not only did he fail to start the second half, Cousins was told to stay behind in the locker room. It was reported to be a coach's decision.

His absence seemed to boost Sacramento.

The Kings kept making surges, pulling within six points late in the third quarter, and again, cutting the lead to seven with about 61/2 minutes left in the game.

But the new-look Clippers, unlike their predecessors, are not collapsing when faced with adversity.

Especially presented with the chance to write a new line of history. Or two.

"I think it's important because, as a team, you want to always want to blaze your own trail," said Chauncey Billups, the injured veteran guard. "You want to be remembered for something.

"You want people to look back and say, man those guys did such and such. Or that's the team that did such and such. In terms of that, it is important. We understand that."

Twitter: @reallisa

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