The former Clippers teammates and current members of the Dallas Mavericks know exactly what Blake Griffin and Chris Paul are trying to do. They tried to do it themselves during seven long seasons, making the playoffs only once. Kaman and Brand got a firsthand look at the new and improved Clippers on Wednesday night, and this version looks better and more sustainable than the older model they led.
Temporary and spare parts have been replaced by franchise cornerstones that might ultimately lead the Clippers to places Kaman and Brand couldn't take them. On Wednesday night, those cornerstones helped lead the Clippers to a 112-90 win over the Mavericks, a victory that put them atop the Pacific Division and three games ahead of the Los Angeles Lakers.
Here are three takeaways from the game:
Griffin's continued improvement
Griffin looks as if he is completely back from the burst bursa sac in his right elbow that was nagging him at the beginning of the season. After scoring 30 points and grabbing 11 rebounds Monday in Utah, Griffin had 19 points and 13 rebounds in less than 27 minutes against Dallas. He looks far more comfortable than he did earlier in the season and is averaging 20.2 points over his past four games after scoring a career-low four points on 1-of-9 shooting last week in a loss to New Orleans. Griffin's totals probably would have been larger, but two of the Clippers' past four wins were blowouts and he played less than 30 minutes in each, sitting out the entire fourth quarter.
One of the few consistent trends this season for the Clippers is that when Jamal Crawford is on his game, the Clippers are at their best and win handily. Against Dallas on Wednesday, Crawford scored 10 points in the second quarter and hit three 3-pointers before halftime to give the Clippers a 60-42 lead at the break. He came up big again in the second half as the Clippers continued to build their lead, finishing with 20 points and four assists. Crawford finished the game with a couple of highlight lobs to Eric Bledsoe that rewarded the fans who stayed to the end of the blowout. The other reserves stepped up as well, as Matt Barnes had 11 points, and Lamar Odom finished with four points and a season-high 11 rebounds in his first game against his former team.
Just when the Clippers were getting used to having Chauncey Billups back in the starting lineup and getting set with their rotations, Billups is on the shelf again. He is out indefinitely because of tendinitis in his left foot, and it sounds as if he could miss at least a week. The biggest issue this presents for the Clippers is having to start Willie Green alongside Paul, which Green did through the first 14 games of the season. The problem is Green didn't play at all in Billups' three games back, falling completely out of the rotation. Unlike Billups, Green also doesn't play in the fourth quarter, so the Clippers used Bledsoe more, which isn't a bad thing. Bledsoe recorded a steal and an assist on a play midway through the fourth quarter that put the finishing touches on the Clippers' win.