Saturday was a good day for the Clippers — and not just because their one-sided 126-105 victory over the Sacramento Kings got the team to .500 for the first time in more than two months.
More important was the fact the Clippers got through the afternoon at Staples Center without losing a key player to injury.
Which isn’t to say the Clippers are getting healthy. Saturday’s game was the first this season without center DeAndre Jordan, who sprained his ankle Thursday and, by sitting Saturday, became the seventh starter to miss a game with injury.
Four others are still out. And a total of nine players have missed more than 120 games combined.
“I’ve never seen anything like this, with the amount of injures,” coach Doc Rivers said. “It’s always your facilitators, your key guys.”
Given the number of players who have hobbled off the court, perhaps the team logo should be changed to a red cross and the team bus traded in for an ambulance. Yet through it all the Clippers have played well, with Saturday’s victory — their second over the Kings in three days and fourth this season — running their winning streak to four games, matching their longest of the season.
Since the day after Christmas, the team has won eight of 10. And Saturday’s matinee, played before a late-arriving and early-departing crowd announced at 16,656, was never in doubt, with the Clippers running out to a 21-point second-quarter lead before emptying their bench in the second half.
Eight of the 10 Clippers who played — including all five starters — scored in double figures. So the fact that Blake Griffin sat out the fourth quarter and finished with 11 points, lowest in a game in which he played more than 10 minutes since last March, went unnoticed.
“We believe that we can be really good,” Rivers said. “We also understand with all the guys out, we’re just trying to hold the fort until they come back. And there’s no end in sight right now.
“We would love to get everybody back. But right now we don’t care. That’s the best part of this team: they’re just going to play every night.”
The player who stepped up biggest Saturday was Willie Reed, who was stepping in for Jordan. A journeyman playing for his third team in as many seasons, Reed made the most of his first start as a Clipper — and just the eighth start of his NBA career — grabbing a season-high 13 rebounds to go with 14 points, two steals and a pair of blocked shots in 26 minutes.
“Everyone can step up. It doesn’t matter who it is,” Reed said. “We just try to come in and do our job to help the team win.”
But if that was unexpected, Lou Williams’ game-high 26 points were not. Williams, who had just seven starts in the team’s first 38 games, has averaged 31.9 points in the last 11, making him the Clippers’ leading scorer this season.
“I don’t think I played well tonight,” said Williams, who made only seven of 17 shots from the field. “I put a lot of points on the board, but offensively I’m not even sure if I was efficient. I didn’t feel efficient. I didn’t feel sharp.
“But it was a good team win. We’re back at .500.”
Rivers, for one, isn’t satisfied with that. However he concedes it’s a start.
“It’s nice,” he said of the team’s 21-21 record. “But that’s not our goal. We want to be better than that. But you’ve got to climb up there first, I guess, to get over that.”