LOS ANGELES — After the Los Angeles Clippers set a record for the longest winning streak in franchise history, Chris Paul was thinking about Ron Harper, Corey Maggette and other former players who endured all that losing.
Paul had 24 points and 13 assists to help the Clippers, for decades synonymous with long losing streaks, break a 38-year-old club mark with their 12th consecutive victory Friday night, 97-85 over the Sacramento Kings.
“Most of those guys have been here through tougher times,” Paul said. “I know Ron Harper really well. He’s a good friend of mine, and he’s excited for us. We just played against Corey Maggette, and he was excited to see how it is now. So it’s been exciting for me in the short amount of time I’ve been here, especially knowing some of the people who have been with the team for 25 or 30 years and the season-ticket holders. But we can’t be satisfied. We’ve got to keep it going.”
The previous record 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 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.