With Clippers, it's fun to speculate how far this runaway train might go

With Clippers, it's fun to speculate how far this runaway train might go
Clippers guard Jamal Crawford loses control of the ball against Magic guard Victor Oladipo in the second half. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

It is the holiday season of gift-giving. So it was fitting that Wednesday night at Staples Center, the Clippers got a nicely wrapped package from the NBA.

Going into the game, the Clippers had won five in a row, four of them on a recent trip in which they went 6-1.


It's probably too early in the season to talk about such things — and Coach Doc Rivers wanted no part of it — but it was two seasons ago when these same Clippers opened eyes all over the league with a 17-game winning streak. It was almost from that point forward that they entered the conversation about NBA title contenders, and they still haven't left it.

"I don't even want to think about that. I don't think about it," a laughing Rivers said before the game.

That prompted a discussion about the psychology involved in coaching in the NBA, in which the season doesn't just seem to go on forever. It does.

"You keep fixing yourself all season," Rivers said. "We need to be better every game. If we are the same in Game 82 [end of the regular season] as we are now, we are in trouble.

"With the players, even when you are winning, you want them to feel they are great, but that they can be greater."

The next 11 games after Wednesday night's encounter with the Orlando Magic include a collection of games against fairly beatable teams, except for the Spurs on Dec. 22 at San Antonio.

Wins leading up to that one, and another one over the Hawks at Atlanta on Dec. 23, would bring them to a home game Christmas night to face a team against whom they currently have terrible problems, the Golden State Warriors.

But, oh my, what an encounter that could be. If they somehow keep the streak alive, the Warriors could be No. 18 straight, a team record-breaker.

That would be quite a stocking-stuffer for TNT and Charles Barkley, not to mention Clippers fans.

Of course, that's putting the cart way before the horse. But it is fun to speculate, because this is one of the more explosive offensive teams in the league. When the Clippers get going, they are the ultimate runaway train.

First of all, they needed No. 6 in a row Wednesday night, and the NBA schedule-maker smiled down.

The Magic, not an especially good team anyway, came to town in the middle of a six-game trip. They entered the game 1-2 on that trip, and 7-13 overall. They also entered with three injured players — Aaron Gordon with a broken left foot, Devyn Marble with a rotator cuff injury and Nikola Vucevic, the 7-footer from USC, with back spasms.

Starting in place of Vucevic was 6-10 Kyle O'Quinn, a second-year player, who was going along just fine until Blake Griffin drove to the basket midway through the second quarter and O'Quinn treated him as if he was an NFL wide receiver, catching a pass over the middle.

That resulted in a Flagrant 2 foul, ruled on after a long delay for a TV review. O'Quinn was tossed out of the game and the Magic, already in the midst of having the Clippers run them ragged, had no center.

Nor, it seemed, did they have any gas left. They had, admirably, cut the Clippers' lead to three points at that stage. But the foul shots and ensuing possession because of the flagrant foul, plus J.J. Redick's quick three-pointer, sent the Clippers off and running again. And they never stopped.

The final score was a 114-86 thrashing.

For Orlando, all this also came against a backdrop of a game against the Warriors less than 24 hours earlier in Oakland, where they played a great game and lost in the final seconds when the NBA's new Pistol Pete, Stephen Curry, tossed in a three-pointer.

You almost felt sorry for the Magic — as sorry as you can feel for guys making millions to play basketball.

Even Rivers had some pregame sympathy.

"I watched the game," he said, "and I'm still trying to figure out how they didn't win."

That prompted the question: Do teams such as the Magic, after a devastating loss and having to play a back-to-back on the road, come to the arena down in the dumps or angry and fired up to win?

"I'm hoping the former," Rivers said.

He got his wish.

The Clippers started 18-3, and 20-5. Any time the Magic got near the basket in the early going, DeAndre Jordan loomed overhead like the Goodyear Blimp, swatting shots away.

It was an unfair fight, and the 151st consecutive Clippers sellout crowd at Staples loved it. With six minutes left in the final period and the Clippers leading, 101-74, the crowd did the Wave.

Talk about piling on.

Griffin had 21, Redick had 20, Chris Paul had 19 and Jordan had 16 rebounds. The Magic stats were less impressive, including Elfrid Payton's free-throw shooting. At one point in the first half, he had gone 0-6 from the line. With consecutive airballs.

It is not all bad news for Orlando. It has a day off before it travels to games Friday night at Utah and Saturday at Sacramento.

More good news. Orlando won't play the Clippers again this season, barring an unlikely playoff matchup. The Clippers also won in Orlando, Nov. 19. That score was 114-90.

That's a two-game point differential of 228-176. Little Magic there.