The Clippers had gotten off to a painfully slow start this season, and went just 1-9 in their first ten games, This was especially troubling since eight of those games were at home, meaning that in order to climb out of that hole, the team will have to do so on the road, which is usually thought to be more difficult in the NBA. That wasn't the case tonight for L.A. though, as they put together a strong second half to beat the Thunder in Oklahoma City, 108-88.
After trailing by three points at halftime, the Clippers went on a 16-2 run midway through the third quarter, led by Cuttino Mobley who had eight of those points and played by far his best game of the season. Mobley finished with 23, but was everywhere on defense, seemingly getting a hand on every pass that went by him. He ended up with seven steals. Mobley said afterwards that some pre-game words from teammate Baron Davis helped him to focus.
"Baron said before the game, 'You've got to get focused.' We're talking about the whole team. I was sitting on the bus and I was saying, 'I'm just going to try to play as hard as I can defensively and see what happens.' "
One could wonder why players don't play "as hard as they can" on a nightly basis, but let's keep it positive. It seemed that besides being able to focus better as a team by getting out on the road, there was another motivating factor for the Clippers to get the win. If they had lost, they would have dropped to dead last in the Western Conference. Marcus Camby admitted that it was something they considered.
"We all joked about playing for last place. We didn't want to have that title. Especially tonight."
The Clips avoided it for an evening, largely because their starters were all able to play big minutes and shoot a combined 57% from the field. The bench continues to be something to worry about, as L.A. got a combined 40 minutes from Tim Thomas and Ricky Davis, with only two points to show for it. But for now, the team can celebrate the fact that at least they're officially not the worst team in the West. And when you've dropped nine of your first 11 games, you'll look for positives anywhere you can find them.