DALLAS -- After the Clippers’ fourth straight loss Sunday in Oklahoma City, DeAndre Jordan stood in front of his locker and said he was going to continue doing his job -- nothing more, nothing less.
Despite the absence of Blake Griffin for at least the next three weeks, Jordan said he wasn’t going to do anything more than what he normally does to compensate for the loss.
“I’m just going to continue to do my job,” Jordan said. “I’m not going to step way outside of my role. That’d be foolish.”
One night later, Jordan threw caution to the wind and decided to be foolish.
With the Clippers in desperate need of a win to break their longest losing streak since Doc Rivers became coach, Jordan responded with the best game of his career. He finished with 22 points and a career-high 27 rebounds as the Clippers beat the Dallas Mavericks 115-98.
The 27 rebounds are the most by any NBA player this season and the most by any Clippers player in history, besides Michael Cage's grabbing 30 rebounds at the end of the 1987-88 season. Jordan and Shaquille O’Neal are now the only two players since the 1985-86 season to record at least 22 points and 27 rebounds in fewer than 40 minutes played.
“He looked like Wilt Chamberlain out there playing in 1963 -- really, he did,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlise said. “He played great, and we didn’t have any good answers.”
Whenever Doc Rivers compares Jordan to Chamberlain, he is usually greeted by eye rolls from the media, but the statistics more than back up the comparisons, and it’s not just Rivers now comparing Jordan to the Hall of Fame center.
Jordan currently leads the NBA in rebounding (13.7) and field goal percentage (72.7). You have to go back to Wilt Chamberlain during the 1972-73 season to find the latest player to finish a season over 70 percent (Chamberlain shot 72.7 percent). Jordan led the NBA in both categories the past season and would become the first player since Chamberlain in 1971-72 and 1972-73 to do so in consecutive seasons if he did it again this season.
“If he keeps going as he is, him and Wilt Chamberlain will be the only two with back-to-back years like that, and nobody notices him,” Rivers said. “It’s amazing to me that no one notices DeAndre Jordan. I don’t know how you can get 22 and 27 and no one notices. He’s just going to keep doing his job. He’s so important for us, and he knows that, and we know that.”
Monday’s performance was Jordan’s second 20-20 game in a week after he never had one before in his career. He has shot over 50 percent from the field in 38 straight games, the longest such streak in NBA history. And he has the longest active streak in the NBA for consecutive games played in the regular season, at 293 straight games.
He has been the lone constant and consistent figure on a team that has been anything but consistent this season. On Monday he helped will the Clippers to one of their biggest wins of the season when they needed it most.
“I’m 26 years old,” Jordan said. “At this point, it’s just will and who wants to win. It was more mental than anything, especially this game after losing four in a row. Before the game, Doc said we had all the excuses to quit and not come out with the right energy and the right mindset, but we did the exact opposite. We made a couple runs, and they came back, and we stayed with it and kept getting stops and ultimately won the game. It was big for us.”
Jordan had hoped his performance this season, on the heels of his strong play last season, would perhaps lead to being named an All-Star. But after being snubbed and continuing to be looked past as an alternate, he is resigned to the fact that he won’t get that recognition this time or anytime soon. That doesn’t stop his teammates from constantly calling him an All-Star in the locker room.
“It’s tough. When teams say the ‘Big Three’ they think Cleveland, Miami or Boston,” Jamal Crawford said. “He’s playing with two superstars. We all know how important he is. He should be in the All-Star Game. He’s an All-Star who’s not playing in the All-Star Game. As long as he has the respect of his peers and his coaches, that’s all that matters.”
Jordan’s mother, Kimberly, who tweets about her son during games, made the trip to Dallas from her home in Houston to watch him play the best game of his career. After the game, she hugged Jordan and joined him on the court for his postgame interview as several players came to crash the party.
It was the first time in a week they had been able to smile and laugh after a game, but after he talked to his mom away from the cameras, Jordan said it probably wouldn’t last long.
“She probably is going to say I could have done some stuff better tonight when I talk to her,” Jordan said. “But that’s good. It’s all good.”