They returned home from a six-game trip over 11 days and yet the Clippers still showed an abundance of exuberance. They were playing their last game before the All-Star break and yet the Clippers were dialed in to the task in front of them.
The Clippers were a vibrant group on so many fronts Wednesday night and that helped push them to their 12th consecutive victory over the Phoenix Suns, a 134-107 runaway at Staples Center before 17,703 fans.
With five players scoring in double figures, the Clippers handed the Suns their 15th loss in a row and moved back into the eighth spot in the Western Conference playoff race, one game ahead of Sacramento and one behind San Antonio.
“We’ve been on the road forever,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “I know how All-Star break goes. They get home and then they’re actually packing for break and I felt like giving them morning [with no shoot-around]. They came here early. We had a walk-through.
“And I thought our veterans led today. I thought they had great energy. I thought all of them in shoot-around, they were very vocal about the importance of the game. I thought that was great for all of us.”
It started with Pat Beverley’s defense on Devin Booker. Beverley was a bundle of energy, forcing Booker into missing his first seven shots. Booker, who was two for 10 from the field and had 10 points, didn’t score his first field goal until there were 39 seconds left in the second quarter.
Beverley took a charge on Josh Jackson in the third quarter and put up one finger, his way of signifying that he was first-team all-defense in 2017. He had only two points, but his four rebounds and plus-19 in the plus-minus category told his story.
“Did you see what I did to [Boston’s] Jayson Tatum?” Beverley asked reporters. “Did you see what I did to Devin Booker? The numbers prove it for itself. Two for 10.”
Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell played with their usual zest, both showing why they are two of the best bench players in the NBA.
Williams began his night by scoring 16 points in the first half on six-for-six shooting, two for two on three-pointers. He also had seven assists in the first half, doing all of this in just 10 minutes 42 seconds. The Clippers noted that Williams was the only player since at least 2002-03 to score 15-plus points and hand out five assists in under 11 minutes of playing time in the first half.
He finished with a game-high 30 points on 12-for-16 shooting and 10 assists in 22 minutes. It was his 27th career game with 30 or more points off the bench, tying Ricky Pierce for the most in NBA history.
It was no surprise to see Harrell play with passion.
He had 19 points, five rebounds and four assists. There were times during the game when Harrell talked trash to Phoenix’s Deandre Ayton, letting the Suns rookie center know that it was not going to be an easy night.
So now the Clippers have 23 regular-season games left and their goal is to get one of the playoff spots.
They return after the break to play two road games, at Memphis on Feb. 22 and at Denver on Feb. 24.
“We need to win as many games as possible,” said Danilo Gallinari, who had 20 points. “I can’t give you a number or record. I don’t know what’s the number to get to the playoffs. We just got to take every game and play every game and win every game.”