Monday, March 17, 2014
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Blake Griffin entered the back half of his 20s with a birthday serenade from the crowd and another dynamic demonstration of why he's only getting better with age.
The Los Angeles Clippers' winning streak also gets a whole lot more impressive with every passing week.
Griffin had 21 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists on his 25th birthday, and the Clippers beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 102-80 Sunday night for their 11th consecutive victory.
The Clippers' high-flying forward threw himself a nice little party: Griffin has scored at least 20 points in 26 consecutive games, a mark exceeded only by Kevin Durant this season.
"This stretch of games that we've played and we've been successful has been a huge team effort," Griffin said. "Guys have stepped up and really done their part. With our team, I don't think it's one guy that's making us go. I genuinely believe it's been a total team effort."
Yet Griffin is a clear driving force with his rapidly evolving all-around game. So is Chris Paul: The point guard had 15 assists and scored 11 of his 16 points in the final 6:04 for the Clippers, who haven't lost since Feb. 21.
The fans sang "Happy Birthday" to Griffin during a dead ball in the second quarter, and he gave a sheepish grin and a wave while waiting to inbound the ball.
He had already received a pregame song from rookie Reggie Bullock, who scored a career-high 14 points on his own 23rd birthday.
"It's probably like the 10th time he's had to do it this year, and he seems like he's getting worse," Griffin said dryly. "No enthusiasm. It's really bad. ... He's got a great personality. He just can't sing at all."
Luol Deng scored 23 points and Dion Waiters had 15 for the Cavaliers, who lost Kyrie Irving in the first quarter to a left biceps injury. Cleveland had won on its first two stops of a three-game West Coast road trip, but never led while Los Angeles matched the longest streak in the NBA this season, equaling 11-game runs in November by Portland and San Antonio.
"They're a great team," Cleveland coach Mike Brown said. "They've got a chance to win it all. I mean, you look how deep their roster is. They have playoff experience, they've got NBA All-Stars coming off the bench, and Doc is a great coach."
Irving, Cleveland's leader in scoring and assists, went to the Cavs' locker room late in the first quarter and didn't return. The All-Star Game MVP missed all five of his shots against the Clippers and was injured shortly before he left the game.
Jarrett Jack scored seven straight points during a 12-0 Cleveland run early in the fourth quarter, trimming the Clippers' former 21-point lead to seven. But Paul shook off a rough shooting night with three jumpers in quick succession, and the Clippers closed out their sixth straight home victory.
"We just can't start games like that," Jack said. "We had a lull period for almost a quarter and a half, and we just didn't go out and compete. Then the game kind of started to turn in our favor, but fighting an uphill battle against a team like that is a very tough task."
DeAndre Jordan added 15 points and 11 rebounds for the Clippers, who matched the 1974-75 Buffalo Braves for the second-longest winning streak in franchise history. Los Angeles won 17 straight games during its unbeaten run through December 2012.
Jamal Crawford missed his fourth straight game with a strained left calf, and fill-in starter Darren Collison was ruled out 15 minutes before tipoff with a stomach virus. Los Angeles already is without J.J. Redick, who hasn't played since early February.
"They don't use an excuse," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. "We have three of our top four guards out today, and no one talked about it (in the locker room). They still feel like every night, we have a chance to win the game."
Los Angeles scored the game's first 11 points and jumped out to a 17-3 lead just 6 minutes in when Cleveland missed nine of its first 10 shots.
Griffin somehow scored while Spencer Hawes flagrantly fouled him in the final minute of the first half, muscling the ball home in a remarkable display of strength. His three-point play put the Clippers up 52-38 at halftime.
NOTES: Hawes got his second technical foul and an ejection with 1:19 to play while standing by Cleveland's bench. Hawes, who scored 14 points, sarcastically waved goodbye to referee Scott Wall as he left. "I'm given up enough money tonight, so I won't say anything more beyond that," Hawes said afterward. ... Metta World Peace watched the game from a baseline seat next to the Cavaliers' bench. The erstwhile Ron Artest won a ring in this building in 2010 with the Lakers, who let him go last summer.