No one can say the Clippers are making it look easy, but they're certainly making it count. A 114-111 overtime victory over the New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday at Staples Center represented their ninth consecutive win, the longest active winning streak in the NBA.
Here are five takeaways from the game:
1) With no one able to beat them recently, the Clippers almost did it to themselves. They went the final 6:05 in regulation without a field goal, fouled Jrue Holiday on a three-pointer with 1.6 seconds left in regulation and then didn't foul Ryan Anderson as instructed in the final moments of overtime, persevering only after Anderson failed to step beyond the three-point line and hoisted a shot that was off the mark. The Clippers also made only 18 of 34 free throws, with DeAndre Jordan (four for 10) and Luc Mbah a Moute (two for seven) the biggest culprits. Nothing came easy, the Clippers needing back-to-back three-pointers from Wesley Johnson and Chris Paul in overtime to prevail. "We had so many chances to put it away and we just couldn't," Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said.
2) Johnson was fearless at a time when his inaccuracy could have left him afraid. The forward had made only two of 10 three-pointers when he took a pass from J.J. Redick in the corner and rose without hesitation. Bingo, as Clippers broadcaster Ralph Lawler would say, Johnson's three-pointer giving the Clippers a 108-106 lead with 2:21 left in overtime. "It was a big shot in the left corner," Paul said. "We needed that. It's funny, we told Wes, 'Keep shooting, keep shooting.'" Good thing for the Clippers he listened.
3) The deliberate "unintentional" fouls became a factor late in the game. The Pelicans jumped on players' backs at the free-throw line or ran into them before play could resume in the final minutes of regulation and overtime, a sneaky attempt to rally without any time coming off the clock. The ploy did not please Rivers, though he used the same tactic to help his team come back for a victory over the Detroit Pistons last month. "It's just bad for the league," Rivers said. "I mean, that game could have lasted forever." The Clippers didn't help themselves by making only one of four free throws in the final 1:36 of regulation and three of six free throws in the final 38 seconds of overtime. "You've got to make free throws," Mbah a Moute said. "I think that's the bottom line is guys got to work on their free throws. It's part of the rules, so why not use it? If I'm a coach, I'm going to use it."
4) Jordan's consecutive-games-played streak keeps rising. He's played in an NBA-leading 360 consecutive games, which becomes all the more remarkable when you consider that teammates Blake Griffin and Chris Paul have each missed considerable chunks of recent seasons. "The only guy out of that core group that has been a constant has been D.J.," Clippers guard Jamal Crawford said, who marveled at Jordan's durability given the nature of his role. "That's crazy because you're setting all those picks. You're rolling, trying to block every shot and getting all those rebounds. You're doing all the dirty work, not the flashy stuff besides the dunks. It's not the flashiest stuff, but he's there every single day. That's the one constant. We know he'll be back there." Said Pelicans Coach Alvin Gentry: "He's been fortunate he doesn't get hurt and if is it's usually some little simple minor thing that doesn't keep him out. In today's NBA, the fact that you could play 300 consecutive games is really phenomenal."
5) The Clippers have done a lot of winning, but have they really beaten anyone? They have won nine consecutive games, the last eight without Griffin. They've tightened their defense and improved their three-point shooting. Something they haven't done: beat one of the top teams in either conference. That gives their matchup against Miami on Wednesday night at Staples Center a bit of extra pizzazz considering the Heat is in fifth place in the vastly improved Eastern Conference. "They play with a lot of pace, a lot of tempo, and we've got a tough game coming up," Paul said. You might be able to say a victory over the Heat would stretch the Clippers' streak to a perfect 10.