The Clippers, who defeated the Golden State Warriors on Friday night with Corey Maggette sitting out most of the last three quarters, tried it again Sunday with their leading scorer sitting out all four.
The result was an even more lopsided victory.
With rookie Quinton Ross filling in for Maggette, who is scheduled for an MRI exam on his sprained left ankle today, the Clippers built a 23-point lead and cruised past the Warriors, 103-91, in front of 14,567 in Staples Center.
The Clippers are 8-6 and could record their most successful November since 1977, when they were 8-6 in their last season as the Buffalo Braves.
Half of their victories were against last-place teams, three against the Warriors, but no matter the outcome of tonight’s game against the Cleveland Cavaliers they’ll take a winning record into December for the first time in 12 years.
“We know that we are ready to play against anybody in this league,” point guard Marko Jaric said after the Clippers sent the Warriors to their 10th loss in 13 games. “We are ready to really step up and send a message that we are a team that [is] going to run for the playoffs, that we are a different team.”
The playoffs, of course, are still a long way off, but there is little doubt that this is a different Clipper team than the one that was 28-54 last season, last again in the Western Conference.
Leading the NBA in shooting percentage after ranking 24th last season, they made 53.2% of their shots in Sunday’s blowout.
“What I’m most pleased about is the way we move the basketball,” Coach Mike Dunleavy said, noting the Clippers’ 29 assists, nearly five more than their league-leading average. “Our [improved] offense is due to us getting good shots.
“For the most part, when our spacing is good and we’re moving the ball to the open man, good things are happening.”
Five Clippers scored in double figures, led by Elton Brand, who had a season-high 25 points plus 13 rebounds, helping the Clippers to a 48-37 advantage on the boards. Bobby Simmons made 10 of 15 shots and finished with 22 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. Chris Wilcox scored 13 points and Jaric in 40 minutes had 16 points, 11 assists, seven rebounds and four steals.
Ross, making his first NBA start, scored 12 points, two shy of the season high he established in Friday’s 98-87 win at Oakland.
“I was just trying to help,” said Ross, who was told about 35 minutes before the game that he would start and then proceeded to knock down five of eight shots and take five rebounds. “You don’t want to be a negative on the court.”
Maggette and Kerry Kittles, who sat out a third consecutive game because of a bruised right knee, were hardly missed.
“We just prepare the next person in that position,” backup center Mikki Moore said of the Clippers’ ability to plug holes. “We tell them, ‘We know you can do this. We know you can guard that guy. We know that you can hit that shot. We know that you know the plays and that you can run that position.’ And if you keep feeding people with confidence and stay positive and don’t let the negativity come in, anybody can be a player.”
The Warriors, who are the league’s worst-shooting team, made eight of their first 13 shots, which must have built their confidence because they led, 23-15. But the Clippers then outscored them, 16-6, to close the first quarter and continued to build their lead from there, growing it to 86-63 early in the fourth.
A three-point basket by Jason Richardson just after halftime cut the deficit to 54-51, but the Clippers proceeded to outscore the Warriors, 29-12, the rest of the third quarter.
The only other time the Clippers, since their move to Southern California in 1978, took a winning record into December was in 1992, when they were 7-6 en route to a 41-41 record in Larry Brown’s only full season as their coach.
“This group of guys,” Dunleavy said, “has been very willing to play the way I want to play, the way I believe in playing.”
Said Moore, summing up: “We don’t play greedy.”
vs. Cleveland, 7:30, FSNW2
Site -- Staples Center.
Radio -- XTRA (690/1150).
Records -- Clippers 8-6, Cavaliers 9-4.
Record vs. Cavaliers (2003-04) -- 1-1.
Update -- The Cavaliers, led by LeBron James, have won nine of 10 since an 0-3 start. James, staking his claim as the NBA’s best perimeter player, has averaged 26.6 points, 7.8 rebounds and 6.2 assists while making 51.8% of his shots.
Tickets -- (800) 462-2849.