It wasn't pretty on Saturday night at Staples Center, but Blake Griffin and the Los Angeles Clippers eventually took care of business, dispatching a depleted Milwaukee Bucks squad without Andrew Bogut and Mike Dunleavy, 92-86. The win was the third straight for the Clippers, who are 19-6 in their last 25 home games.
More importantly, the Clippers are in first place in the Pacific Division, at 4-2.
Sure it's early, with plenty of season left, but it doesn't make it any less exciting for the Clippers and their fans. They have a young core group of players, led by Griffin and point guard extraordinaire Chris Paul, and they are surrounded by key veterans willing to step up when duty calls. On Saturday night, Caron Butler scored a season-high 20 points, including 14 in the decisive third quarter that saw the Clippers outscore Milwaukee 34-25. Chauncey Billups scored 13 of his 19 points in the second half, and has yet to miss a free throw this season.
Now comes the first test of the season for the Clippers.
They have Sunday and Monday off, but head north to battle the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday night at the Rose Garden, where the Blazers are 4-0 so far this season. The Clippers already beat Portland once this year, but that was in Los Angeles; in Portland, the Clippers have lost five straight and 32 of their last 37 games dating back to 1993.
The matchup of the week comes Wednesday night at Staples Center, when LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and the Miami Heat come to town, currently at 8-1 owners of the NBA's best record. The Clippers beat the Heat in Los Angeles last season, and will look to make it two years in a row on Wednesday. This will be a nice litmus test early in the season to see exactly how the Clippers match up against the best.
Then, to top it all off the Clippers host the Los Angeles Lakers next Saturday, looking to prove that their two wins in the preseason were very real. It should be a fun week for the Clippers. The first-place Clippers, that is.
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