Blake Griffin was gone but the Clippers were back Monday night at American Airlines Center. The team that had gone missing in action even before its star forward was lost because of a staph infection in his right elbow looked whole again during a 115-98 victory over the Dallas Mavericks. Here are five takeaways from the game:
1. This was a win the Clippers sorely needed: They had just lost their leading scorer for a minimum of three weeks, not to mention a season-high four consecutive games. The Clippers needed a win to prevent the panic that Coach Doc Rivers said was swirling only outside the locker room from seeping into its inner confines. They got there by playing team basketball, sharing passes and getting contributions from nearly the entire roster.
2. DeAndre Jordan was dominant again: The center’s 22-point, 27-rebound performance was the stuff usually associated with legends of the game, which Jordan may be becoming despite his All-Star game snub. The team’s leading comedian was all business on the court, snagging seemingly every rebound and throwing down dunks while taking lots of pressure off his teammates.
3. The small-lineup experiment was an initial success: The Clippers used some unusual lineups, including one in which their big men were Hedo Turkoglu and Glen Davis, in an attempt to see if they could go small. It was a success and something the Clippers anticipate using more while Griffin is sidelined.
4. It helped that the Clippers found team more banged-up than they are: Dallas’ Rajon Rondo was already out with a broken nose before Tyson Chandler (left ankle) and Monta Ellis (left hip) departed in the first quarter. That left the Mavericks relying heavily on the likes of Charlie Villanueva, Raymond Felton and Richard Jefferson. Yikes. You got the feeling by the end of the game that the Clippers might not be looking up at Dallas in the Western Conference standings much longer.
5. A victory over Houston on Wednesday would give the Clippers some momentum going into the All-Star break: The Rockets will be missing the injured Dwight Howard, so it’s another opportunity for DeAndre Jordan to exert his dominance on an undersized team. It’s also a chance for the Clippers to ease their own worries about what it will be like to spend at least the first two weeks after the All-Star break without Griffin.