It wasn’t their most impressive performance during their 10-game winning streak, but the Los Angeles Clippers eked out a victory against the Detroit Pistons and continued the best regular-season start in franchise history.
On a night when the Clippers struggled to score or play cohesive defense until the fourth quarter, it was encouraging to see them survive a scrappy Pistons squad. The Clippers led by only two points at halftime and by three points at the end of the third, yet they stepped on the gas in the fourth and ran the Pistons out of The Palace of Auburn Hills.
With their next three games against inferior opponents, including two they’ve already beat (the Sacramento Kings and Phoenix Suns) and one, the New Orleans Hornets, that they’re seeking revenge on, the Clippers have a legitimate chance to win 13 games in a row.
That would not only surpass the Buffalo Braves’ 11-game win streak in the 1974-75 season, but make the Clippers 21-6 for the season and keep them in the competitive hunt for first place in the West.
Here are three takeaways:
Griffin rendered ineffective
Don’t those last two dunks in garbage time fool you; Griffin had a quiet night. Though he ended up with 15 points, only a few under his average, he had just four rebounds and spent most of the game upset and in foul trouble. A large part of that can be attributed to Jason Maxiell, the hefty Pistons forward who used his imposing strength and wide base to push Griffin off the low block and force him into taking jump shots. Luckily for the Clippers, even if their All-Star big man has an off night they can still win on the road.
It’s illogical to overly nit-pick a victory, especially on the road, but the Clippers simply did not rotate well against the Pistons. Greg Monroe dissected their defense, racking up six assists from the high post by finding teammates off backdoor cuts and back screens. The Clippers did not do a good job of leaving their men to protect the rim; as a result Detroit got a lot of easy baskets.
Also, the Pistons shot 7-for-20 on 3-pointers (35 percent), a number that could have been much higher if Brandon Knight hadn’t uncharacteristically clanked a bunch of them (Knight went 3-for-10, most of which were wide open). L.A. ranks 25th in 3-point defense, which is probably the area it needs to improve on most on that end. If that doesn’t catch up to the Clippers soon and cost them a game, it will sometime down the road.
Grinding it out
While the Pistons trailed by at least six points from 8:33 left in the fourth quarter until the end of the game, this was a close contest that came down to a few key possessions. Once again, “A Tribe Called Bench” extended the lead, this time from three points at the beginning of the fourth to 11 points when Paul and Griffin checked in at the 6:30 mark. The Clippers haven’t faced much adversity during their winning streak, so the fact that they did on this night in Detroit and still came out on top is promising.