Clippers find a reason for an extra celebration
The Clippers don’t plan to stop here, unless their goal is to get into the NCAA tournament.
They could be heard playfully whooping it up through their locker room door inside the Verizon Center on Sunday after a 92-78 triumph over the Washington Wizards gave them 20 victories, one more than they had all of last season.
“We still have a chance to have a great season, a winning season, and that’s the most important thing,” said guard Baron Davis, who had 11 points and 11 assists and was one of six Clippers to score in double figures
The aspirations have changed for a team that finished 44 games below .500 last season, though they’re still somewhat modest with 39 games left in the regular season.
“Our goal is to be .500 by the All-Star break,” forward Al Thornton said.
The Clippers (20-23) moved a step closer Sunday when center Chris Kaman scored 20 points and forward Marcus Camby contributed 12 points, 19 rebounds and five blocked shots on the way to helping their team end a road losing streak at eight games.
Their last road victory had come so long ago -- Dec. 19 at Philadelphia -- that Kaman said afterward he couldn’t remember it. They are now 1-1 on an eight-game trip that makes its next stop tonight in Boston.
Antawn Jamison had 20 points and 10 rebounds for short-handed Washington, which fell to 3-8 since All-Star guard Gilbert Arenas was suspended indefinitely for bringing guns into the locker room. The Wizards twice rallied from double-digit deficits to get within a basket and trailed by only three points early in the fourth quarter when guard Mike James stepped out of bounds.
That’s when Thornton, who needed four stitches for a gash in his right leg after he ran into the scorer’s table in the third quarter, made an 18-foot jump shot and guard Rasual Butler blocked a shot by Randy Foye, leading to a layup by Mardy Collins that restored the Clippers’ advantage to a more comfortable seven points.
Davis committed only one turnover in 36 minutes in the Clippers’ second game since guards Eric Gordon and Sebastian Telfair were sidelined because of injuries. Collins contributed five points and five assists in 11 minutes off the bench, but the Clippers did not use guard JamesOn Curry, who recently signed a 10-day contract after starring in the Development League.
Curry made a cameo appearance on the video board in the third quarter during the Kiss Cam feature, playfully putting his arm around fellow reserve Steve Novak.
There was also plenty of love to go around in the Clippers’ locker room after they swept the Wizards in a season series for only the third time. Players spread the credit when asked how a team with essentially the same personnel as last season had achieved so much more.
Kaman attributed the improvement to Davis becoming more comfortable in his second season with the team, saying he was “head and shoulders above last year’s performances.”
Davis gave kudos to Coach Mike Dunleavy, saying he had done “a better job of allowing us to make mistakes and play with a little more freedom than we did last year.”
Thornton said the team’s chemistry is better.
“It’s a real close-knit group on and off the court,” he said, “and I think that’s the difference out there on the court.”
Gordon said he is experiencing some arthritis in the sprained big toe on his left foot that has forced him to sit out the last two games and fears it could linger for the rest of the season.
“That’s probably the worst thing, that it’s going to keep on hurting throughout the year,” he said. “I’m trying to get it to the point where it’s calming down so I can be out there and play.”
Gordon said he expects to return during this Clippers’ trip, though his availability tonight is expected to be a game-time decision.