There’s nothing like a scheduled victory to start the new year.
The Clippers had been somewhere high over the Arizona desert when the clock struck midnight Pacific time to commence 2016, their charter flight home ending a stretch of five games in seven days.
Their reward was a game Saturday night at Staples Center against the hapless Philadelphia 76ers, which might have been less taxing than an intrasquad scrimmage.
The Clippers set a season high with 69 points in the first half and broke the 100-point barrier with 11/2 minutes left in the third quarter on the way to a 130-99 victory over the team with the NBA’s worst record.
As is customary during a busy stretch, the Clippers taped a free-throw line inside their locker room to stage their pregame walk-through. Center DeAndre Jordan then walked all over the 76ers, his 22 points and 13 rebounds in three quarters helping the Clippers (22-13) extend their season-high winning streak to six games.
They are 5-0 since Blake Griffin was sidelined by a partially torn left quadriceps tendon that’s expected to keep him out at least another week. Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said he hoped to have a better idea of when his All-Star power forward might be able to return by the middle of next week. In a sign of progress, Griffin had already commenced some exercises in a pool, Rivers said.
His teammates have persevered just fine in his second extended absence in two seasons.
“Blake’s our No. 1 scoring option,” Jordan said, “so when he’s out there’s going to definitely be more opportunities and more looks for other guys. We’re learning to play without Blake and everybody’s picking it up so when he does come back we’ll be a lot better.”
The Clippers were essentially walking in place for 11/2 quarters against the 76ers until Jordan dunked a lob from Chris Paul while being fouled by Philadelphia’s JaKarr Sampson.
Jordan air-balled the free throw and the 76ers decided it might be a good idea to start intentionally fouling him.
It wasn’t. Jordan made three of four free throws amid the hacking before adding dunks on consecutive possessions, helping the Clippers extend what had been a four-point lead to a 69-52 halftime advantage and remove any remaining drama.
“That stretch before halftime I thought took their spirit away a little bit,” Rivers said.
Paul finished with 15 points and 14 assists and Austin Rivers was strong off the bench with 19 points on eight-for-12 shooting. Clippers shooting guard J.J. Redick made four of five three-point attempts and scored 16 points while continuing his pursuit of the franchise’s single-season record for three-point accuracy.
Redick has made 49.1% of his three-pointers, putting him on pace to break the record of 46.6% set by Eric Piatkowski during the 2001-02 season.
“J.J.'s one of those guys that I don’t care what he’s shooting, 50% or 10%, I’m going to try to find him,” Paul said.
Jahlil Okafor scored 23 points on 10-for-14 shooting for the 76ers (3-33), who wore down while playing on the back end of a back-to-back that started Friday with a loss to the Lakers.
The Clippers have gone smaller with Griffin out, using Josh Smith, Paul Pierce and Wesley Johnson as the starters at power forward. Johnson started against the 76ers and collected 12 points, four steals and two blocks. Pierce was given the night off to rest.
Smith played seven minutes in the fourth quarter with the Clippers ahead by as many as 39 points, but the veteran forward doesn’t appear to be nearing a return to the rotation.
“Right now,” Doc Rivers said, “why would you want to touch what’s going on?”