via The Sports Xchange
DALLAS — The Los Angeles Clippers got their season-long, six-game road trip off to a rollicking start with a 124-104 demolition of the sinking Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday night at American Airlines Center.
The Clippers (14-2) are off to their best start in franchise history and left little doubt why against Dallas with a 68-point first half on 61.0 percent shooting from the field that included 64.3 percent — 9 of 14 — from beyond the 3-point arc.
“When things are clicking, the offensive pace is right … we’re communicating on defense … covering each other’s back and the tempo is right,” Clippers point guard Chris Paul said. “You can see when we are a little flat because we are not getting the shots that we want.”
They got everything they wanted and more.
Dallas (2-12), owner of the league’s worst record, is off to one of its worst starts in franchise history while battling a slew of injuries to key veterans.
The Mavs got Dirk Nowitzki back in the lineup after he missed eight games with a sore right Achilles tendon. Still, his return offered little resistance against LA as Dallas’ losing streak reached seven games.
Early on, the desperation to get off to a fast start manifested in a hustling 15-7 lead.
But it was short-lived as Los Angeles slowly crept back from a cold-shooting first few minutes and made it 26-26 nearing the end of the first quarter.
Then reserve guard Austin Rivers canned consecutive momentum-swinging 3-pointers in a span of four seconds. He hit the first and then made a steal in the backcourt, found the arc, stepped behind it and drained another for a 6-0 burst and a 32-26 lead with 9.4 seconds to go.
Rivers finished with a team-high 22 points and was 6 of 7 on 3-pointers. He had made seven all season.
“Yeah, it’s funny. He’s so streaky. He’s struggling, and he spent a long time in the gym yesterday working on that, and it came through for him,” said Clippers coach Doc Rivers, also Austin’s father. “It’s great for him — being a young player you work on it and sometimes it pays off.”
It did mark the end for Dallas, which continued to play without injured guards Deron Williams, J.J. Barea and Devin Harris. A 17-2 run opened a 15-point lead early in the second quarter and a 20-4 run to close out the half put the Clippers comfortably ahead 68-45 heading to the locker room.
The lead ballooned to 31 points in third quarter, allowing Doc Rivers to rest his starters in the fourth quarter.
Seven Clippers scored in double figures, led by Paul, who had 18 points and four assists in 25 minutes. Blake Griffin had 12 points, six rebounds and led the team with seven assists. DeAndre Jordan had 16 points and eight rebounds, and J.J. Redick finished with 10 points.
Off the bench, free-agent pickup Marreese Speights posted a double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds, and sixth-man Jamal Crawford finished with 15 points.
Nowitzki was on an undisclosed minutes limit and finished with 10 points on 3-of-10 shooting from the field and six rebounds in 20 minutes.
“It was good to be out there again,” Nowitzki said. “My conditioning is lacking a little bit right now. I was a little tired out there, but at least my body felt fine, and that’s all that matters.”
Harrison Barnes continued to be one of the few brights spots for Dallas with a team-high 22 points on 10-of-19 shooting from the field. Wesley Matthews had 18 points and Jonathan Gibson’s garbage-time 3-pointer gave him 11 points.
“As our health gets better, we’re going to have a chance to make it better,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. “But we’re going to have to make it better.”