LOS ANGELES — After their 17th consecutive victory gave them a perfect month, the Los Angeles Clippers finally paused to admire their achievement.
“We got something extremely magical going on,” forward Caron Butler said after the Clippers beat the Utah Jazz, 107-96, on Sunday night to become the third team in NBA history to record a perfect month.
“When we win we usually jump up and down once or twice,” coach Vinny Del Negro said. “Tonight we let them jump and down three or four times, so everyone had their fill.”
The Clippers went 16-0 in December to join the 1995-96 San Antonio Spurs, which included Del Negro, and 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers as the only teams to go undefeated in a month. Their franchise-record winning streak is the NBA’s longest since Boston won 19 in a row four years ago.
“I am amazed because I haven’t done it since I’ve been in the league,” said seven-year veteran Chris Paul, whose 19 points and nine assists helped his team maintain the league’s best record at 25-6.
Butler led the Clippers with 29 points despite not playing in the fourth quarter and made all six of his 3-pointers, including five in the opening period. Former Rainier Beach star Jamal Crawford scored 11 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter. Blake Griffin piled up five fouls and was held to seven points after getting double-teamed.
“That shows our depth,” Paul said. “Our bench stepped up amazing.”
The streak isn’t talked about among the players and coaches. But it’s a popular topic with everyone else.
“That’s an incredible record to have,” Utah’s Derrick Favors said. “They’ve got 17 straight wins and they’re playing hard. They’re going to keep coming out and keep playing the same way.”
Actually, it’s just the opposite, according to Griffin, who said the last month “is the most fun I’ve ever had playing basketball.”
“You don’t really think about it that much. We’re having a blast,” he said about the streak. “It’s not like it’s one of these things where it’s so much pressure.”
Al Jefferson scored 30 points — one off his season high — to lead Utah, which fell victim for the third time during the Clippers’ streak. The Jazz lost, 116-114, on Friday when the Clippers rallied from 19 points down, and they were beaten ,105-104, on Dec. 3, both times at home.
“It’s frustrating,” said Gordon Hayward, who had 16 points. “Knowing that they’re a good team and knowing that we’re always right there with them, knowing that we need to keep on playing good for 48 minutes.”
The Jazz lost its third in a row and seventh in the last nine games.
“We can’t make any mistakes against them, especially on their home floor because they make you pay for it,” Jefferson said.
Crawford keyed a 10-5 run to open the fourth, highlighted by a 3-pointer and a fastbreak pull-up jumper that helped the Clippers extend their lead to 89-81. Paul and Griffin didn’t join the second unit until 5:55 remained and Utah had closed within four on a basket by Favors.
That was as close as the Jazz got.