LOS ANGELES -- There was a time when the Los Angeles Clippers cared about their current 14-game winning streak. It wasn't necessarily a goal they had set out to achieve before the season started but once they discovered they were within striking distance of the franchise record, which was 12, they wanted to break it.
Lamar Odom, who remembered what it was like to win 15 games his entire rookie season as a Clipper, wanted to break the record. Chris Paul, who has made it his goal to re-write the Clippers record book after he arrived in Los Angeles last year, wanted to break the record. Shoot, even maligned Clippers owner Donald Sterling, who made a rare visit to the locker room after they won 12 straight, wanted to break the record.
After the record was finally broken, however, the Clippers stopped talking about the streak and went about their business. They have since extended the streak by two games and will go for 15 straight on Thursday night against the Boston Celtics but there will be no celebrations if they reach the mark.
After the Clippers' 14th straight win, Paul, as he has done many times before, put the streak in perspective and reminded everyone that it really meant nothing in relation to the Clippers' ultimate goal, which is to win a championship.
"I was in the Western Conference [in 2008] when Houston won 22 in a row," Paul said. "And they only moved up two spots because the West was so deep that year."
Paul has brought up that streak a few times before when talking to his teammates. Blake Griffin even knew the number of consecutive games Houston had won that year when he was asked.
The 2007-08 Houston Rockets team that won 22 straight, the second longest in NBA history behind the Los Angeles Lakers' 33 straight in 1971-72, not only got their streak snapped at home by the Celtics but ended up being eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.
That's not the kind of end to the season Paul wants the Clippers to have. Streaks are nice but, all jokes aside, the Clippers aren't going to be hanging any banner for winning 15 or 16 straight games.
"We can't get caught up in the streak," Clippers center DeAndre Jordan said. "You can't get 20 until you get whatever number we're on now. We just have to play."
When Jordan was asked about the Lakers' 33-game winning streak, he smiled and said, "We're only 20 away from breaking it."
Until the Clippers get closer to the record than 20 wins, the story of the streak really isn't about the streak at all. It's about the style of basketball the Clippers have played en route to winning their last 14 games by an average of over points 15 points per game. They're playing the most exciting brand of basketball Los Angeles has seen since Magic Johnson was running "Showtime." And before you scream how blasphemous that statement is, consider the comparison came from Johnson himself.
"I thought I would never, ever see Showtime again," Johnson said on ESPN at halftime of the Clippers' win over the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday night. "And I was the architect of Showtime. The Clippers? That's Showtime."
It was easily the biggest stamp of approval Paul and the Clippers have received this season. Sure, they have the best record in the NBA (22-6), the league's longest winning streak (14) and haven't lost a game in over a month (Nov. 26), but having Johnson call you "Showtime" is like Wayne Gretzky calling you "The Great One." Whether you agree is irrelevant when you consider the source.
As flattered as Paul was to hear Johnson's words, he deflected the high praise saying, "Showtime was known for winning championships. We haven't done that yet."
Championships can't be won in December, but Odom has been around long enough to know that championship teams can at least begin to take shape in December.
"You can't tell the future, but you can try to prepare for it as much as possible," Odom said. "With practice and hard work and dedication and playing as a team, we're trying to prepare to be the best team in the NBA. ... But I don't want to rile nobody up. It's easier to sneak up on people than have them run from you."