Utah Jazz v Los Angeles Clippers

Clippers sweep the month of December, beat Jazz for 17th straight win

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They say you make your own luck, but in the month of December, the Clippers have had little need to manufacture much of it. They’ve blown out most of their opponents, coasting to victory easily and often sitting their starters the entire fourth quarter. For a franchise that many thought was legitimately cursed once upon a time, it’s been interesting to see the Clippers control their own fate without interruptions from the basketball gods.

And although they haven’t been dependent on luck, the Clippers knew what to do once a bit of it came their way on Sunday night against the Utah Jazz.

Clippers starting small forward Caron Butler averages just 9.5 points a game, but the Clippers didn’t so much as blink when Butler’s shots kept going in. Chris Paul (9 assists) fed Butler again and again, and Butler’s jumpers kept tickling the twine.

Butler is just about the only player who could score 29 points on a perfect 6-for-6 shooting from behind the arc…and then not play a single minute in the fourth quarter. That’s the luxury of depth — the Clippers can ride the hot hand, and then go away from it and still not starve for points. On the Clippers roster, there seems to be a player for every situation, and for every need.

When the need was to finally put an end to Al Jefferson’s (30 points) dominance on the left block, DeAndre Jordan got the call late. Jordan’s free throw percentage of 40 percent is virtually a “foul me” sign slapped on his back late in games. But with Jefferson overpowering every other option the Clippers threw at him, yet again, it was Jordan tasked with stopping him.

When Jazz head coach Ty Corbin eventually countered with the Hack-A-Shaq technique on Jordan, the Clippers lead began to feel a little bit more vulnerable. When the ball is in the hands of Paul, all is safe. But when the ball is in the hands of a 40 percent free throw shooter? It’s skill against luck. One you put your faith in, the other you hope for.

But with Jordan at the line, something funny happened. Again. For the fourth time in two games.

Instead of clank, DeAndre Jordan went bank.

Jordan’s bank shot free throw was one of five makes in a row that propelled the Clippers to a 107-96 win, just when the winning streak was beginning to look like it was ready to end for the second time in two games.

Instead, the Clippers will take their 17-game winning streak into the new year. And although that streak will be subject to a possible bad break or an unlucky bounce, the Clippers perfect month of December, one of only three in NBA history, will go into the record books where lady luck can no longer reach it.

Zaza Pachulia steals ball, starts break, blows open layup against Suns (VIDEO)

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Zaza Pachulia is riding the Golden State Warriors train for all it’s worth, in the good and the bad. In November, Pachulia hit a mid-range jumper and did a horse dance. If that was the zenith, Saturday night against the Phoenix Suns was the nadir.

Particularly because Pachulia blew a breakaway layup in which he definitely should have scored.

Instead, the Warriors big man stuffed the ball between the iron and the backboard, clumsily squandering his opportunity:

*Sad trombone*

Russell Westbrook’s no-look, two-hand, behind-his-head pass ignites Thunder break

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Russell Westbrook was just himself — hustling, attacking, and getting his fifth triple-double in a row Sunday night against the Pelicans.

But the play of the night didn’t get him any points or an assist. It was Westbrook hustling, getting to the floor to get a loose ball, then making the showtime pass to start a Globetrotters-like fast break that ended with an Andre Roberson dunk.

Westbrook had an impressive dunk of his own.

NBA VP Kiki VanDeWeghe on “unnaturual acts:” “Our rules are for every player”

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The NBA has tried to crack down on “unnatural acts” — players flailing body parts trying to draw a foul call.

At the heart of that is Golden State’s Draymond Green, who picked up a flagrant foul for the unnatural act of getting his leg high enough to kick James Harden in the face Thursday night. Green fired back at the league, saying in part, “It’s funny how you can tell me how I get hit and how my body is supposed to react. I didn’t know the league office was that smart when it came to body movements.” Green’s argument is that he was fouled in the air and the high leg was the natural act of him trying to keep his balance. (Doesn’t matter, it’s a reckless act and if you kick someone in the face you should get a flagrant foul. Also, try explaining the kick on Marquese Chriss on Saturday that way.)

Former All-Star NBA player as well as coach Kiki VanDeWeghe is now an NBA vice president and the guy who is the decision maker on these reviews and fouls. He spoke with Sam Amick of the USA Today about how those unnatural act rules are applied.

“Our rules are for every player,” VanDeWeghe told USA TODAY Sports. “We want each play judged according to the rules, as best possible, and the rules applied fairly across our whole league. That’s very important to us. We don’t make exceptions for players. They are applied to everybody.

“In Draymond’s particular case (against the Houston Rockets on Thursday), he had an arm flail which struck the player (James Harden) in the neck-head area. And then in addition to that, he had a kick up above the head of the defender. As he brought his leg down, his heel hit him in the face. It wouldn’t matter what player we’re talking about (it’s a foul)….

“Most of these are done to draw the attention of the referees. We noticed an uptick in these last year, and they needed to be addressed by the competition committee.”

While Green feels singled out — “marked” is what he tweeted — VanDeWeghe noted that competition committee included owners, coaches, GMs, people from the players union, and a lot of people with playing experience, who all sat down as a group and studied what is and is not an “unnatural act.” As Amick noted, it isn’t just Green who gets hit with these penalties, although he gets the headlines: Boston’s Marcus Smart was given a Flagrant One for his kick to the groin of the Miami’s Hassan Whiteside; Thursday LeBron James was given a technical foul for his blow to the head of the Clippers’ Alan Anderson.

So long as Green continues to make these acts — and the kick to Chriss Saturday suggests they are not slowing down — the crackdown will continue.

Watch Raptors PG Kyle Lowry throw a full-court alley oop to Pascal Siakam

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Toronto Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry is having an excellent year for the Eastern Conference Finals hopefuls, and part of that is due to his vision. On Saturday, Lowry threw a full-court lob to Pascal Siakam that was mighty impressive.

After a missed shot in the middle of the third quarter by the Atlanta Hawks, Lowry gathered the rebound on the left block and quickly turned his eyes downcourt.

Siakam, the No. 27 overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, was streaking toward the Raptors basket and behind the Hawks defense.

Lowry took advantage with a long-distance heave after one dribble at the free-throw line, and Pascal was able to gather and softly lay the ball up at the rim.