The Clippers executed a nice little Texas two-step leading into the All-Star break, beating Dallas and Houston in consecutive games to improve to 35-19. They can rest easy over the next week after a 110-95 victory over the Rockets on Wednesday at Staples Center. Here are five takeaways from the game:
1. DeAndre Jordan is emerging as a star before our eyes. He may not be an all-star, but he’s become pretty much everything to the Clippers, particularly with Blake Griffin sidelined for an extended period. Jordan finished with 24 points and 20 rebounds, giving him three 20-20 games in his last six, after having none previously in his career. And he’s doing all his scoring without any plays being run for him.
2. J.J. Redick’s importance to the Clippers cannot be overstated. The Clippers have won both of their games since Redick returned from a three-game absence because of back spasms. Redick does so much more than make three-pointers, causing defenses to constantly chase him because of his movement without the ball. He also played great defense on Houston’s James Harden, holding a player who was averaging 27 points to nine on three-for-12 shooting.
3. Jamal Crawford has overtaken Portland’s Damian Lillard as “Mr. Clutch.” Crawford scored 12 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter, allowing him to surpass Lillard for the NBA lead in fourth-quarter scoring this season. Crawford even banked in a three-pointer in the fourth quarter on a night that both teams struggled to shoot from beyond the arc.
4. The injured Griffin’s presence at the game was a nice psychological boost. Even with his arm in a protective sling, Griffin showed up to support his teammates, a gesture that was very much appreciated.
5. The Clippers can fully enjoy the All-Star break now. Having won their final two games before the break, they can exhale and put their legs up without worrying about cratering in the standings without Griffin. They have won two of three games since their leading scorer was lost for at least three weeks with a staph infection in his right elbow. That takes a lot of pressure off with another tough stretch starting Feb. 19 at Staples Center against the defending NBA champion San Antonio Spurs.