For the Clippers, it’s a streak
It . . . took . . . an . . . exasperatingly . . . long . . . time.
Flanked by forgettable losses, insurmountable injuries and off-court issues, the Clippers can now proudly and resolutely present their second winning streak.
It came against an unlikely opponent at the beginning of an unlikely run on an unlikely night at Staples Center, with a 114-104 victory over the Utah Jazz on Friday in front of a sellout crowd of 19,060, their first packed house since opening night.
Rookie Al Thornton continues to find life easier with his efficient drives to the rim, and Corey Maggette maintained his fluid play before resting comfortably on the bench for most of the fourth quarter.
Thornton and Maggette each amassed 27 points and combined to shoot 17 for 28 from the field.
Thornton’s points came on jump shots and drives, with hard fouls routinely waiting on the other end.
“I think it’s a sign of respect,” Thornton said. “Any time you go to the basket and guys foul you hard, you just try to shake it off.”
The Clippers poured in a season-high 37 points in the third quarter to nourish a six-point halftime lead. They outscored the physical Jazz, 58-38, in the paint.
The Jazz entered as a winner of 13 of its last 14 games, spurred by two easy wins over the Clippers last month.
The win comes as the Clippers (19-33) start another tough run against top opponents with no break in the near future.
And, for the second and final time this season, the Clippers were hosts of a Friday game -- a night they are usually exiled to the road.
The boundless quest for consecutive wins ended with 46 games come and gone in between their 4-0 start and their next two consecutive victories, begun with a win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday. They had 13 attempts to win consecutive games after the start but had fallen short each time.
“I’m glad it happened, now we are going to try for three,” Coach Mike Dunleavy said dryly. “It was just a really solid game for us.”
The reward for the effort?
Playing host to the red-hot Lakers tonight, followed soon by conference games against the slipping but still solid Portland Trail Blazers, and one in Denver against the formidable Nuggets.
Mix the Detroit Pistons and Boston Celtics -- two of the beasts from the East -- into that six-game span and well . . .
“I try not to look too far ahead, but there are certain things you can’t help,” Dunleavy said before the game, later adding, “It’s not going to be an easy weekend.”
Or nine days.
But they start with a refreshing win and an even more-needed win streak.
Sam Cassell missed the game because of a bruised wrist, but Dan Dickau provided a serviceable 13 points and six assists in 26 minutes.
Cuttino Mobley and Chris Kaman each scored 14 points.
The Clippers lost to the Jazz by an average of 17 points in two January games but rebounded well Friday.
Deron Williams ended with 26 points and 10 assists for the Jazz (35-20) and Carlos Boozer had 22 points and 10 rebounds, but the Jazz misfired on all 13 of its three-point attempts.
The battle continues against the Lakers.
“We’ve got a big game [tonight], now we need to switch gears,” Maggette said.