LOS ANGELES (AP) — Chris Paul had 24 points and 13 assists to help the Los Angeles Clippers, for decades synonymous with long losing streaks, break a 38-year-old franchise record with their 12th consecutive victory Friday night, 97-85 over the Sacramento Kings.
The previous mark was set by the Buffalo Braves during the 1974-75 season, when current Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro was 8 years old. The head coach back then was Jack Ramsay, whose formidable roster included Bob McAdoo, Garfield Heard, Randy Smith, Jim McMillian, Jack Marin and Bob Weiss.
That team won 49 games — still a record for a beleaguered organization that has called three different cities home, wasted first-round draft picks on Benoit Benjamin, Terry Dehere, Michael Olowokandi and Darius Miles, and was labeled "the worst franchise in sports history" by Sports Illustrated in an April 17, 2000, cover story.
Blake Griffin had 21 points and 13 rebounds for the Clippers, who have had 20 double-digit losing streaks since their 11-game winning streak in Buffalo — including a dozen of 12 or more. They lost their first 16 in 1994-95, their first 17 of the lockout-shortened 1988-89 season, and the final 14 in 1986-87. The club record for consecutive defeats is 19, set in 1981-82 and equaled in 1988-89.
But those dark days are history thanks to the arrival of Griffin, the blockbuster trade that brought Paul from the New Orleans Hornets last December, and a bench that is arguably the deepest in the NBA. The Clippers, who have the league's longest active winning streak, also own the NBA's second-best record at 20-6 and trail Oklahoma City by just one game.
This is the earliest the Clippers' franchise has ever reached the 20-win mark, and only the sixth time they did it with a winning record — including a 20-11 start last season. The previous club record in that department also was set in 1974-75, when the Braves started out 20-8. Just four seasons ago the Clips finished 19-63 under Mike Dunleavy.
Los Angeles beat Sacramento for the fifth straight time — including all three meetings last season. The Clippers haven't lost to anyone since Nov. 26 at Staples Center, when New Orleans beat them 105-98 and held Griffin to four points and one field goal — both career lows.
Reserve guard Jimmer Fredette had 16 points for Sacramento, which is 1-11 on the road. DeMarcus Cousins was benched for the entire second half by coach Keith Smart, who ordered him to remain in the dressing room after he scored nine points in 20 minutes.
The Kings, who had their highest-scoring game of the season Wednesday night in a 131-127 home win against Golden State, have dropped six of seven. Tyreke Evans missed his third straight game and eighth in the last 12 because of a sore left knee. He also was sidelined for the Kings' 116-81 loss at Los Angeles on Dec. 1, when the Clippers posted their largest margin of victory since the franchise left Buffalo.
Caron Butler's 3-pointer gave Los Angeles its biggest lead, 58-41, with 10:05 left in the third quarter. The Kings narrowed the gap to 63-57 with a 16-5 run capped by Fredette's 3-pointer with 4:25 left in the quarter, but that was as close as they got. Paul helped put the game away with a pair of 3-pointers in the final 4 minutes.
Griffin powered the Clippers to a 53-39 halftime lead with 16 points and eight boards. Power forward Jason Thompson, the only player to start all 26 games for Sacramento, fouled him twice during a 1:23 span and went to the bench with 7:48 left in the first quarter. The Clippers then pulled ahead 20-11 with a 9-1 spurt that included a pair of 20-footers by Griffin, and Paul drained a 3-pointer with a second on the clock for a 29-21 advantage.
Ronny Turiaf, who earlier in the game shot an air ball on a free throw and got some good-natured ribbing from his Clippers teammates on the bench, extended the lead to 43-28 with a fast-break dunk right after 6-foot-1 guard Eric Bledsoe blocked a layup by 6-10 Kings forward Thomas Robinson at the other end.
NOTES: The teams the Clippers have beaten during this streak have a combined winning percentage of .401 (116-173). The Kings (8-18) are the only team they have faced twice in that stretch. ... The Clippers are at Phoenix on Saturday night, trying to break a franchise-record road winning streak of five — by those same '74-75 Braves. ... The Buffalo Braves' winning streak included neutral-site games against the Boston Celtics at Providence, R.I., and the Philadelphia 76ers at Toronto. ... The Los Angeles Lakers, who share Staples Center with the Clippers, haven't won 12 or more games in a row during one season since 1999-00, when they had streaks of 16 and 19. ... Matt Barnes, who played high school ball in Sacramento and spent part of the 2004-05 season with the Kings, had 13 points. The Clippers are 14-0 when he scores in double digits off the bench. ... Los Angeles is 17-0 when leading after three quarters, and 15-0 when holding an opponent under 43 percent shooting. The Kings shot 41.8 percent. ... Fredette missed a free throw with 3:48 remaining, ending his streak at 33 in a row.