LOS ANGELES – It was Filipino Heritage Night last Friday at the Staples Center and it proved to be another wonderful time to go to a Los Angeles Clippers game.
My heart fluttered with pride as I covered the game wearing an NBA.com Philippines media credential on my chest. And my stomach was full of Mexican food, thanks to a sprawling spread of such delectable treat featured in the media dining room. For this assignment, I went with PhilBoxing.com's Ray Y. Sabay, who was credentialed as a photographer.
The author (right) with Philboxing.com photographer Ray Sabay
As usual, Staples was sold out, a streak that dates back since February 2, 2011. With 19,060 screaming fans cheering them on, the Clippers clobbered the visiting Sacramento Kings, 97-85, for a franchise record 12 straight wins.
Although the match was one-sided – with the Kings falling behind 53-39 at the break and trailing the rest of the way – it was still beautiful and exciting to watch.
Chris Paul may not be infallible but the 6-foot- court general, a seven-year pro and four-time All-Star, rarely makes mistakes while running Los Angeles' high-flying, fast-running show. Paul abused Sacramento’s defense with 24 points and he gift-wrapped 13 assists to his happy teammates, who play with the cohesiveness of Marvel Comics' Avengers.
While leading the Clippers to a 20-6 record on top of the Pacific Division, Paul also reached the 5,000 assists mark in his decorated career.
Blake Griffin, the Western Conference Player of the Week, is another reason why the Clippers sell out every home game while ranking fourth in the NBA in road attendance. Though notorious for his high hops, the 6-foot-10, 251-pound Griffin is more than just a dunk specialist. He actually has a decent jumper and a soft touch inside the paint. He had 21 points and 13 rebounds against the Kings.
The Clippers are by no means just a Paul and Griffin show. Under head coach Vinny Del Negro, L.A. has morphed into a dangerously deep team with lethal weapons on both ends of the floor. Matt Barnes, a former Laker and Golden State Warrior, springs from the bench with a defensive clamp. Jamal Crawford, who dances deftly to elude defenders is an instant scorer, while the dunk-loving Eric Bledsoe provides extra excitement.
Come to think of it, the Clippers still don't have veterans Chauncey Billups and Grant Hill, who are both recovering from injuries. Opposing teams shudder at the thought of how good this other Los Angeles team is once those two skilled guards return to action.
Meanwhile, Tinikling, the traditional Filipino dance featuring two people dancing to the cadence of beating, tapping and sliding bamboo poles, was featured in the halftime show. Looking at the spectacle unfold made me much, much prouder to be a Filipino.
With Filipino Heritage Night at Staples Center, the Clippers and the NBA have clearly recognized the strength and depth of the Pinoy fan base.
My NBA.com Philippines colleague and former editor, Homer Sayson, already said it before. But let me say it again, "The NBA, I love this game!!!