Welcome back, Clippers.
It had to feel good to see those early-season Clippers return, the ones who played unyielding defense, who came with the right approach to the game.
And it had to feel extra special for the Clippers to break their three-game losing streak with a rousing 113-94 victory over the defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday night at Quicken Loans Arena.
Now, a six-game trip that was turning into a nightmare because of losses at Detroit, Indiana and Brooklyn could end with a 3-3 record if L.A. wins Friday night at New Orleans in the final game of this adventure.
This was more like the Clippers who started the season 14-2, the team with a defensive mentality, and so unlike the team that had lost those last three games, two by double digits.
“It was important for us to see what it felt like to win again,” said Chris Paul, who had to fight through three first-half fouls to score 16 points, hand out nine assists and grab six rebounds.
“When you’re running off [wins] like we were and then you lose, you’re like, ‘What? We lost?’ Then you lose three in a row and you’re like, ‘We need to get that feeling back to see what it’s like to win,’ it just gets our locker room back right. So, it’s a good win for us, but tomorrow is real important.”
Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said much of what the nation saw was who “we are” as a team.
His team shared the basketball, dishing out a season-high 32 assists, 11 by Blake Griffin, which matched his career high after he was rested and sat out Tuesday night’s double-overtime loss in Brooklyn.
“We actually played to our potential,” Rivers said. “I thought we had some adversity, which was great… I thought it was a team win because every single guy had a contribution.
“Defensively, we were just locked in. The reason was we respected them. They’re the Cleveland Cavaliers. And, they get your respect. They get your attention. You could see it in the walkthrough this morning. There wasn’t a lot of talking; there was a lot of listening. It was good.”
J.J. Redick got the Clippers going early, scoring 21 of his 23 points in the first half.
DeAndre Jordan dominated the backboards, collecting 15 rebounds, eight offensive. Alan Anderson played when Luc Mbah a Moute got in foul trouble, Paul Pierce had four rebounds in his 15 minutes. Austin Rivers (12 points) and Jamal Crawford (12) both did their thing off the bench.
And perhaps just as important as the win, none of the Clippers’ starters played more than 31 minutes, keeping them fresh for the back-to-back game at New Orleans.
“This was a win that we really needed to make this trip somewhat salvageable,” Griffin said. “We lost more games on this trip than we did in the previous 16. So obviously this trip didn’t go how we wanted it to. But we still have to finish the trip out in order to not make it worse. So it’s important to get this type of win, but we can’t just get up for games like this.”