The Clippers had an NBA-best 10-game winning streak before they played the Sacramento Kings on Saturday night at Staples Center, nine of the victories coming with All-Star forward Blake Griffin sidelined with a partially torn left quad tendon.
When Kings Coach George Karl was asked how impressed he was with the Clippers’ streak with Griffin not playing, Karl paused and smiled before answering.
“Who do I offend?” Karl asked, “The guys that won 10 in a row or Blake? I mean, I’m somewhat surprised. I think more so on the road.
“The beginning of the [streak] was on the road and I thought they had a chance to maybe give one of those games away and they won those games. I thought that was the most impressive.”
The Clippers started their winning ways on Christmas Day playing the Lakers, and that was the night Griffin was injured.
The Clippers won at Utah, Washington, Charlotte and gutted out a victory at New Orleans, winning while playing five games in seven nights. The Clippers also won at Portland during this stretch.
Griffin missed his 10th consecutive game Saturday night and center DeAndre Jordan missed his second consecutive game recovering from pneumonia.
But the Clippers just keep pushing on.
“Every player that is playing well for them has had a good experience in their career to maybe being an All-Star,” Karl said. “They’re playing small, but DeAndre is an incredible rebounder and Chris Paul is a top five, top three point guard in basketball.”
Paul and Jordan — when he was healthy – increased their production with Griffin out, and Clippers Coach Doc Rivers got improved play from plenty of players.
Luc Mbah a Moute and Paul Pierce started holding down the forward spots.
J.J. Redick took over more of the scoring load.
Then the Clippers’ bench improved its play.
Center Cole Aldrich, who has started the last two games in place of Jordan, scored a season-high 19 points in his last game against Miami.
Jamal Crawford, Wesley Johnson, Pablo Prigioni and Austin Rivers have all played well for the Clippers with Griffin out.
Rivers has always believed in the next-man-up philosophy, frequently saying every player in the NBA gets paid and that they all have a job to do.
So in past years, when a Clipper has been out because of an injury, they haven’t had many lulls — just like this season.
“I think they took the responsibility kind of when Chris was out last year and Blake kind of took the responsibility,” Karl said. “I think that’s the sign of how talented their top three players are, top four players in Redick.
“In Redick, is there a more offensive two guard in basketball that’s more difficult to cover? I don’t think there is. I think he’s so hard to cover and they love setting screens for him and Chris likes to find him.”
Follow Broderick Turner on Twitter @BA_Turner