Originally Published: March 17, 2014

What Clippers Gained On 11-Game Streak

By Jordan White | TrueHoop Network

DENVER -- It was bound to happen eventually.

The second game of a back-to-back, the high altitude, a tired, banged-up roster versus one that loves to run -- this was the perfect storm for the Clippers' winning streak to be snapped.

Yet while the streak is over, the lessons learned from it remain, and they'll serve a purpose come the postseason.

Chris Paul
John Leyba/The Denver Post via Getty Images)Chris Paul and the Clippers saw their streak end in Denver.

"We found ways to win with a lot of guys out," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. "And you may have to have a playoff game like that. Overall, I was just happy how tough we were mentally."

This is the tale you'll hear from the Clippers insofar as how the streak has changed them. More than anything -- more than Blake Griffin's ascendance into true superstar, more than DeAndre Jordan's transformation into a composed defender -- the team's newfound mental resolve is the most valuable gift granted to them by the streak.

The Next Man Up mentality is one every head coach tries to instill in his or her team. No excuses no matter the injury, no matter the situation. After the streak, this psychology now pervades the Clippers' locker room. That the team won so many consecutive games while missing the likes of J.J. Redick and Jamal Crawford at times only further instilled this mindset.

"I haven't heard one guy complain, 'Oh, we don't have this guy or this guy,'" Griffin said. "It doesn't really matter. We honestly believe that every night we go out, we have a chance to win, no matter who's playing, and that's a big mental step for our team."

Griffin, dominant during this stretch, was nothing short of gassed Monday night. Weary, sapped of energy, Griffin and his shot looked flat, devoid of lift or strength. Though he did manage 26 points, he did so on 25 shots, all of them needing just a bit more effort than usually required.

A coach might frown at such a performance, preferring his star to defer to those whose shots are falling on that night. Rivers, however, wasn't bothered by Griffin's attempts.

"I told Blake I don't care," Rivers said of Griffin's shooting. "I don't mind if he goes 7-for-40. Just keep shooting with confidence."

Confidence is key with any player, especially one still extending his range. Griffin's shot may not have fallen Monday night at the rate it did the past 12 games, but as Rivers said, that's no reason to lose faith.

It all goes back to the mental fortitude Rivers has been able to inculcate in his team over the past 12 games -- not just a "no excuses" approach, but a "never say die" one as well.

It would have been easy for this team to expect to lose, knowing the perils of playing 5,280 feet above sea level. The Clippers could have played hard for a half, then checked out as they prepared for their brief break. And while they still lost, they never hung their heads or even thought of an early surrender. They carried on the good fight until the final buzzer.

A true title contender is a team that doesn't rest on its laurels. Never content with its current lot, the team always strives to improve in every area, from strategy to attitude. So while the wins are nice, and the boosts in confidence and seeding it provides certainly are boons, it doesn't mean the Clippers are done getting better.

"Streaks are great, but you could win 25 in a row and still be out in the first round of the playoffs," Griffin said. "We didn't even talk about the streak or think about it. It wasn't a big thing. The biggest thing is how we're playing, and I think it was a sign of maturity."

Jordan White's work appears on Hardwood Paroxysm. Follow him @JordanSWhite

Dimes past: Feb. 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | March 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 16

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