The calendar flipped and there were indeed a few things different about the Clippers.
Some resolve on defense, for one thing, not to mention a turn-back-the-clock performance from Jared Dudley.
Oh, and there's this nugget: The Clippers are perfect in 2014 against the dreadful Eastern Conference after a 112-85 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats on Wednesday night at Staples Center.
That actually ranks as something of an achievement considering wins had been no sure thing for the Clippers against the league's scarlet letter half; they came into the game 6-6 against a conference that features all of three teams with winning records.
It was an especially happy New Year's Day for Dudley, who ended a string of forgettable games with 20 points while resembling the sharpshooter the Clippers had envisioned when they traded for him in the summer. He made seven of 10 shots, including six of nine three-pointers, a marked improvement for someone who had missed 11 of his previous 12 shots from beyond the arc.
"For me, to see the ball go in once or twice breeds confidence," said Dudley, who last made six three-pointers in a game as a member of the Phoenix Suns in April 2010.
Belief was not in short supply on a night Clippers forward Blake Griffin scored 21 of his 31 points in the second half and point guard Chris Paul scored all 17 of his points in the first half and finished with 14 assists.
The Clippers also played sterling defense on the court where they had yielded 107 points to Phoenix on Monday, holding the Bobcats to 29 points in the second half. This, after a first half in which they gave up 56 points and their most notable stop came by the rim when it stuffed a Cody Zeller dunk.
"The second half was the standard we want to play at, where we score and get stops," Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said. "The first half, we were shooting 50-whatever percent, but it was a tie game. I didn't really enjoy that half, but the second half was fantastic."
It started with Dudley hitting a three-pointer and a 22-foot jumper, part of a 7-0 Clippers push that permanently tilted the game in their direction. Griffin also proved to be practically unstoppable in the second half, making 10 of 13 shots.
"That was unreal," Paul said. "They didn't know what to do. One time there in the second half I came off a ball screen and I probably had a layup, but I was trying to get it back to him. It was impressive."
The Clippers had nearly everything working, a welcome departure from a stretch in which they had lost three of their previous four games.
Dudley had been at the epicenter of his team's struggles, scoring nine, four, zero and four points over his last four games before Wednesday. But he kept shooting, even showing up at the team's practice facility on scheduled days off.
"You have to be aggressive and obviously you have to make shots," Dudley said. "For me, the other games where I'm two for five or one for six, you've got to make a couple. So for me, it's good to get a couple down."
Dudley can only hope it's the start of something special.
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