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Clippers' Luc Mbah a Moute cuts loose for a brief, rewarding moment

Clippers' Luc Mbah a Moute cuts loose for a brief, rewarding moment
Clippers forward Luc Mbah a Moute has been continually praised by teammates for his defensive prowess this season. (Bruce Kluckhohn / Associated Press)

It was a moment that at first made all the Clippers pause, a quick snapshot that eventually caused them to celebrate the significance of what they had just witnessed.

Luc Mbah a Moute had just blocked a shot in the second half, and then the Clippers’ defensive savant did something un-Luc like. He struck a pose and pointed toward the bench.

Keep in mind that Mbah a Moute is cerebral, his approach to the game generally low key. But there he was enjoying the moment, a rare show of emotion.

That's why his teammates so enjoyed seeing Mbah a Moute express himself for those brief seconds.

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“That was more than I’ve ever seen him do anything on the basketball court,” Jamal Crawford said late Friday night after the Clippers’ 114-96 victory over the Pelicans in New Orleans.

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During his pregame meeting with reporters Friday at the Smoothie King Center, Clippers Coach Doc Rivers mentioned how Mbah a Moute never engages with his opponent and goes about his job in a dignified way.

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But at the end of a six-game trip that saw the Clippers go 3-3, Mbah a Moute had provided his teammates a small glimpse of some attitude.

"It's fun to see Luc out there," forward Blake Griffin said. "He's such a huge part of our defense. We ask him to guard the toughest guy most nights. So it's fun to see him get some recognition and get some love from the bench for some defense."

Mbah a Moute is the starting small forward, but he’ll defend forwards like Cleveland’s LeBron James, point guards like New Orleans’ Jrue Holiday or even a big man like Anthony Davis, the Pelicans’ do-everything power forward.

"Whoever is the best offensive player, whether one through four, he can guard," Crawford said. "And not just guard. He'll make it hell for them that night. He does it without question, without a doubt, without anything. If he was a [football] safety, he'd be Richard Sherman [of the Seattle Seahawks]. He'd shut that side of the field down."

Crawford acknowledged that San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard, the NBA’s defensive player of the year last season, is considered the best wing defender in the league. But Crawford will sing the defensive praises of Mbah a Moute all day.

"It's intelligence. It's instinct. It's the pride that he has," Crawford said. "Not even as a defender, but as a person."

When asked about his teammates' comments, Mbah a Moute just takes it in stride.

But defending so many different positions presents a challenge from game to game.

"It's understanding your personnel, knowing guys, knowing what they like to do, their tendencies," Mbah a Moute said. "It's studying film. . . . I've done enough over the years defensively to understand guys, notice tendencies. I know my way around."

Even when he offers a slight disagreement with Rivers over his role in the offense, Mbah a Moute does so in a gentlemanly manner. He's averaging 6.1 points on 51.1% shooting, 40% on three-point shots.

"You know, I'm not a football player, so I do have to be there on offense," he said. "So when he says it's not really my job, it is my job in a way. I've got to make sure I'm a threat out there. Whether it's knocking down corner threes or cutting to the basket when those guys get double teamed, or setting screens, it's just playing through the flow of the offense."

UP NEXT

VS INDIANA      

When: 6:30 p.m. Sunday.

Where: Staples Center.

On the air: TV: Prime Ticket; Radio: 570, 1330.

Records: Clippers 16-5; Pacers 9-10.

Records vs. Pacers: Clippers 0-1.

Update: Despite some indifferent play on their just-completed trip, the Clippers remain the only team in the NBA ranked in the top five in offensive rating (fourth, 109.7) and defensive rating (first, 98.9). Since defeating the Clippers on Nov. 27, the Pacers have played just one game, a loss at Portland on Wednesday. Pacers All-Star forward Paul George is questionable because of a sore left ankle.

Twitter: @BA_Turner

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