From Comcast SportsNetLOS ANGELES (AP) -- The Los Angeles Clippers' franchise record-tying 11th consecutive victory had owner Donald Sterling leading a "hip, hip hooray" chant in the locker room.Sterling grabbed the hand of coach Vinny Del Negro and held it up, exhorting his team, "Let's hear it for the coach." Then he told Del Negro, "Vinny, give me a hug" and the two men embraced."Eleven in a row. Not bad, is it?" Sterling said.Blake Griffin scored 18 points and Jamal Crawford added 17 in the Clippers' 93-77 win over the New Orleans Hornets on Wednesday night that tied the franchise mark set by the 1974-75 Buffalo Braves."That's pretty special, especially to do it at home," said Chris Paul, who had 10 points and 12 assists, giving him 5,003 in his career."The food tastes better, the music sounds better, you sleep a little better," Paul said. "Everything seems better when you're winning."DeAndre Jordan added 12 points for the Clippers, whose 19-6 record is tied with New York for second-best in the NBA.Robin Lopez scored 14 of his 22 points in the first quarter and rookie Anthony Davis added 16 for the Hornets. They lost their ninth in a row and 11th in 12 games while falling to 2-10 on the road. They were the last team to beat the Clippers on Nov. 26."We knew they were going to come out with a lot of energy. They made shots that they didn't make the last time we played them, and they got a lot of easy buckets," Davis said. "They've got a great team. They're all capable of scoring the ball, from the starters to the bench."Four of the Clippers' five starters took the fourth quarter off, with only Willie Green coming back in after having helped build a 19-point lead to start the final period. But the Hornets couldn't get anything going against the second unit that has played a significant role in the Clippers' current run."We've been getting off to good starts and not putting so much pressure on our bench," Paul said.The Hornets staged a brief rally to open the third. Davis scored five in a row in their 12-9 run that drew them within seven. The Clippers took over from there, outscoring New Orleans 18-6 to end the third leading 75-56. They made 8 of 10 free throws, while Paul's fast-break dunk highlighted the spurt. Griffin grabbed his teammate as Paul swung wildly from the basket."Oh, did I dunk tonight?'" said Paul, the least likely to dunk on a Clippers team nicknamed "Lob City."Blake drew laughs when he said, "You saw I had to help him down.""They really feed off their fast break," Ryan Anderson said. "They're a team that runs, and when they get turnovers they break out and find open guys at the other end. They did that the whole second half and they took advantage of our mistakes."Paul fed Griffin for a layup late in the second quarter to notch his 5,000th assist, triggering a standing ovation. Griffin got fouled on the play and made the free throw. It came during an 11-0 run that provided the Clippers' largest lead to that point, 46-30. Paul's alley-oop pass to Griffin led to a fast-break dunk for the Clippers' final basket of the half, with them leading 48-38."I didn't know what everyone was cheering for," Paul said.Griffin said, "It's cool to be part of that. It's definitely not the last. I'm looking forward to 10,000."The Hornets kept it close in the opening quarter, when they trailed 22-16 after Lopez scored 14 points. He was scoreless in the second quarter when he picked up his third foul.NOTES:Del Negro said Jordan turned his ankle during the game. ... At 27 years, 228 days, Paul is the third-youngest player in NBA history to reach 5,000 assists, trailing Magic Johnson and Isiah Thomas. He is the fifth-fastest to reach the milestone, needing 510 games. ... New Orleans hasn't won since Dec. 3 against Milwaukee. ... Hornets G Eric Gordon missed the game against his former team because of a sore right knee. He smiled when Clippers fans chanted his name in the final 2 minutes. ... Returning home from a four-game trip, the Clippers had a moment of silence for the victims of last week's school shootings in Connecticut.
The two fastballs that soared to the backstop on Wednesday night should give you a strong indication that Carlos Rodon was far from perfect.
But in making his first start of the 2017 season, the White Sox pitcher also offered his team plenty of signals that his health isn’t going to be an issue.
Rodon returned to the mound for the first time since last September and brought the goods that made him one of baseball’s top pitching prospects several years ago. Given he’d missed three months with bursitis in the left shoulder and the potential value he offers to a franchise only half a season into its first rebuild in 20 years, that was plenty for the White Sox to overlook the rust Rodon showed in a 12-3 White Sox loss to the New York Yankees at Guaranteed Rate Field.
“He started a little rough early obviously, got some high pitch counts,” manager Rick Renteria said. “And then he kind of settled down.
“Having him back in the rotation and getting him back out there on the big league field, coming out of there feeling good, healthy. I'm sure he will continue to get better as he continues to get out there and move forward.”
Renteria said he wasn’t surprised that Rodon struggled with his command as much as he did against the Yankees. The issues the pitcher displayed in uncorking a pair of wild pitches, walking six batters and throwing strikes on only 41 of 94 pitches were also present during Rodon’s four rehab starts in the minors.
But as long as the stuff was there, the White Sox would be OK with any issues that accompanied the performance. Rodon began to alleviate those concerns immediately when he earned a called strike on the game’s first pitch with a 93-mph fastball to Brett Gardner. Featuring a four-seamer with an absurd amount of movement and a nasty slider he struggled to control, Rodon checked all the boxes the White Sox hoped for from a pitcher they believe will be a frontline starter for years to come. Rodon also was pleased by how he felt before, during and after the contest.
“I was pretty excited,” Rodon said. “I was going a little fast in the first. But it was good to be out there. Next time out, it’ll hopefully be a little better. Arm feels good, body feels good, all you can ask for.”
Well, it’s not ALL you can ask for, but it’s pretty damn good out of the gate given how slow Rodon’s return took. His four-seam fastball averaged 94.9 mph according to BrooksBaseball.Net and touched 97 mph. His two-seamer averaged 94.4 mph and touched 95. And his slider, though he couldn’t control it, nor locate it for a strike, averaged 86 mph.
“You could see (Omar Narvaez) going over to try to catch some balls that were having tremendous run,” Renteria said. “That's (Rodon). He's got some tremendous life, he's just trying to harness it the best that he can and being able to execute where he wants to get as many strikes as possible.”
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The strikes were about the only thing Rodon didn’t bring with him. He walked Gardner to start the game and issued two more free passes after a Tim Anderson error allowed a run to score and extended the first inning. Rodon threw 37 pitches in the first, only 15 for strikes.
He also reached a full count to each of the batters he faced in the second inning. Rodon walked two more with two outs in the third inning after he’d retired six batters in a row.
And there were those pesky first-inning wild pitches that resembled something out of ‘Bull Durham.’
But all in all, Rodon and the White Sox ultimately saw enough in the first outing to be pleased.
“Great stuff, great life, but the goal is to put it in the zone and let them swing it to get guys out early,” Rodon said. “That’s not what happened. I’ll get back to that.”
“It’s a tough loss, but it’s better to be with the guys out on the field grinding than sitting on the couch and watching, for sure.”