Maybe this is a game the
The Clippers' 104-90 victory over the
If they were lucky to face the Heat while Miami is deep into a six-game trip, had to play without injured guard Goran Dragic and has slid into a 1-4 slump, every team has injuries and slumps and the Clippers simply played the hand they were dealt — and played it well.
Paul Pierce, taking a leadership role without Griffin and Jordan, wouldn't let them lose. "He and the whole team were frustrated at halftime," Coach
They outscored Miami in the third quarter, 34-17. Overall, the Clippers won because they prevailed in the paint (42-32), on second-chance points (14-3) and because they got help from some unlikely sources.
Closest to Rivers' heart, Pablo Prigioni had a career-high eight steals, matching the league high this season. "He's a crafty, veteran player," said Rivers, who holds the Clippers single-game record of nine. "Eight steals in 14 minutes is impressive."
If the first nine victories in their winning streak were games the Clippers were supposed to win, those games still served an important purpose in allowing them to experiment with their rotation and refine their defensive play.
Not only did they make some much-needed progress on the defensive end, they solidified their place in the top four in the West behind
"Our goal is to be third or second," reserve guard
Any progress they make, he said, will result from their defensive play.
Miami committed 24 turnovers Wednesday, many of them under intense pressure.
The Clippers' improvement on that end, Austin Rivers said, has been the best gain from this streak.
"We're communicating really well," he said. "We have each other's back on defense and we're starting to really defend every game and make it tough for people to score, which is leading to everything else."
Aldrich agreed, but also praised Chris Paul's veteran leadership while Griffin has been out.
"I think defensively we've been really good. Offensively, we've had some guys really step up," said Aldrich, whose missing tooth and jagged row of stitches above his eyebrow gave him a strong resemblance to a hockey player.
"Austin had a few games where he played unbelievable and Chris, this whole month, has just been playing great. With Blake out we need those guys to step up and they have, and it's just a way to continue to have trust in our guys."
In each other, they trust. With that trust they've built a 10-game winning streak, piece by solid piece.