LOS ANGELES -- If there was ever a time for Chauncey Billups to make his return to the Los Angeles Clippers, it was now. As Billups took his time recovering from a torn left Achilles tendon he suffered Feb. 6, the Clippers jumped out to an 8-2 start this season. There was no need for him to rush back onto the court with the team playing so well.
Billups’ complete recovery, however, coincided with the Clippers being in the midst of a four-game losing streak and the timing couldn’t have been better for him to return to the starting lineup.
Soon after Billups stepped onto the floor, he hit a three-pointer en route to scoring 7 points in less than six minutes. It was as if he had never left. Billups, who finished with 8 points and 3 assists, capped off his first game back by finding DeAndre Jordan for a picture-perfect lob dunk to give the Clippers a 100-95 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves and snap their losing streak.
Here are three takeaways from the game:
Griffin and Jordan
After their worst performances of the season against the New Orleans Hornets, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan responded with solid games against the Wolves. Griffin had 18 points and 6 rebounds, while Jordan added15 points and 6 rebounds. Jordan put a couple of exclamation points on his game with an and-one dunk, which gave the Clippers a 93-88 lead with less than a minute left after he hit his free throw. He then caught a lob from Billups and put it down to give the Clippers a 97-93 lead. Jordan also hit Griffin for a wide-open dunk earlier in the period that showed how important having both players on the floor late in games is, now that they have each improved from the free throw line. Jordan hit 3-of-6 from the free throw line. And Griffin has been having a career-best year from the stripe.
One of the bigger issues for the Clippers during their struggles is a lack of consistency. They simply don't know what player is going to show up on what night ... and the chances of them all showing up to play on the same night have been few and far between this season. The biggest culprit on Wednesday was Caron Butler, who responded to a 33-point game against New Orleans with just 2 points in 23 minutes and was a non-factor in the game. Of course, the Clippers don't expect Butler to go off for 33 points every night, but they need more consistency from Butler and their starters on a nightly basis.
Odd man out
Everyone expected Willie Green would be the odd man out in the Clippers' rotation with Billups back. Billups would be taking his starting spot back from Green, who has started every game this season at shooting guard. No one would have anticipated, however, Green would fall off the depth chart entirely. Green didn't even see the court on Wednesday night and appears to be the most likely candidate to be inactive when Grant Hill returns from his injury next month. "It's hard because you have [Eric] Bledsoe, Jamal [Crawford] and Matt [Barnes]," Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said before the game. "That's been our consistent second group and that's how it will stay for now. But it's a long season and things change periodically."