LOS ANGELES, Calif. Having seen Katheryn Bigelows depiction of the hunt for Osama bin Laden in the War on Terror thriller Zero Dark Thirty over the weekend, it became more and more clear that it is the motion picture equivalent of watching the Los Angeles Clippers during their franchise-redefining 14-game winning streak.
Both offer scintillating, dont-want-to-stop-watching-when-it-ends entertainment over the glut of their two and a half hour run times and will be worthy of awards and individual accolades when it comes time to recognize such feats. While they offer vastly different subject matters, both have the same foregone conclusion.
The Clippers 112-100 win over the Denver Nuggets (15-14) at Staples Center Tuesday night was about as surprising as watching Osama end up in a body bag.
But what excitement in getting there! Following the first Christmas Day doubleheader floor transition in Staples Center history and a second quarter in which Lob City scored on 11 consecutive possessions and outscored Mile High City by 20, Los Angeles (22-6) mostly coasted to its 14th straight victory by virtue of dunk after alley-oop after three pointer after important bench contribution.
A Blake Griffin dunk from near the free-throw line? Check. Jamal Crawford dribbling behind the back before leaping and finding the glass, and then twine, for two? Check. A Matt Barnes three-pointer off a deflected pass on a broken play? Check mate.
The Lakers may have the written-in-stone Christmas matinee, but the Clippers have the best record in the NBA.
Blake Griffin and I talk about it all the time, Chris Paul said. We want guys to know when they come to play us, to rest up because theyre going to be here and its going to be a dogfight.
With 14 straight wins, Los Angeles still has eons to go before theyre whispered with the same reverence as the 1971-74 UCLA Bruins (88 straight victories) or the 1971-72 Lakers (33 straight victories). Theres still plenty of room to make up before theyre even on similar footing as the 2003-05 USC Trojans, who won 34 consecutive NCAA football games.
But what good company theyve kept. Other than USCs dominance last decade, this Clippers run is the most impressive streaking by a Los Angeles team since the Lakers 16 and 19 wins in the 1999-00 season, or the 11 straight playoff wins rattled off by Kobe & Company before losing Game 1 to Philadelphia in the 2001 NBA Finals.
I was in the Western Conference that year when Houston won 22 in a row, you know what I mean? And they only moved up like two spots in the west, Paul said. We were so deep that year.
We talk about it all the time. I tell Blake, I said there are teams that are losing games here and there that may actually be playing better than us. Its good that were winning, becauseyou want home court when it comes to the playoffs. We still have got to keep building. Well know when were where we want to be. But we still have got a ways to go.
No other team so acutely identified its weakness in the 2012 off-season. Coming off a breakthrough season for the franchise but one that saw its bench rank 26th in the league in scoring, vice president of basketball operations Gary Sacks pinpointed a slew of players who have turned the previously maligned depth into the leagues best bench practically overnight.
Jamal Crawford, who would be an early favorite to win his second sixth man of the year award, led all scorers with 22 points as part of a 64-point bench effort. He entered the game as the leagues leading scorer off the bench with 16.8 points per game and finished with his 12th game with at least 20.
Matt Barnes, who recorded his career-high eighth consecutive game with at least 10 points off the bench, finished second in the game with 20 points. Lamar Odom rekindled some potency with six points, 10 rebounds and four assists, while Ronny Turiafs only field goal came on a monstrous dunk in the second quarter, the frame in which Los Angeles outscored Denver 42-22.
What we do now doesnt really matter when it comes to May and June, Barnes said. But we want to continue to build good habits, stay healthy, and just continue playing the right way.
The right way? Long stretches of Tuesdays demonstration might as well have been referred to as "The Beautiful Game."
I thought I would never, ever see Showtime again, and I was the architect of Showtime, Magic Johnson said during the national broadcast of Tuesdays game. The Clippers? Thats Showtime.
Though coach Vinny Del Negro was upset with an at times lackadaisical defensive effort in the fourth quarter that gave off a closer-than-it-really-appeared final score, the finish to the game did highlight the teams need to play a complete 48 minutes and improve quarter by quarter, game by game.
Its about the big picture. Its about us getting better. Im big into the progression of the team. Im big into working your minutes. Im big into making sure you play the right way, he said.
Its nice, but its Christmas. Weve got a long way to go.