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  • Hector Amezcua / hamezcua@sacbee.com

    Chris Paul, second from right, and Blake Griffin (32) lead the Clippers into a season in which they're being mentioned as NBA title contenders.

  • Jason DeCrow / The Associated Press

    The Heat's LeBron James works against the Nets' Paul Pierce on Friday. Miami fell to Brooklyn and ended up with its first losing streak since January.

  • Suchat Pederson / The Wilmington (Del.) News-Journal

    Michael Carter-Williams of the 76ers had a memorable NBA debut against the defending champion Heat by posting a stat line achieved only twice before.

NBA Beat: Expectations for Clippers make a huge turnaround

Published: Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013 - 11:00 pm | Page 4C
Last Modified: Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013 - 7:58 am

There was a time when a "Beat L.A." chant aimed at the Los Angeles Clippers would have been considered a joke.

Beat the L.A. Clippers? Won't they eventually beat themselves?

That's not the case anymore. Beating the Clippers is no longer an easy feat.

Now when the Clippers lose, there is plenty of scrutiny – as there was when the Los Angeles Lakers beat them opening night – and they're no longer expected to finish at or near the bottom of the Pacific Division.

The Clippers are good – perhaps even NBA championship good – and expectations soared after they re-signed point guard Chris Paul and brought in Doc Rivers to coach.

"You don't go out every night and play expectations," Rivers said. "You play the Kings and you've got to play everybody else. Just because you have expectations, it's nothing that you should be thinking about. You should be thinking about the process and going through that.

"I think they're handling it pretty well, but we'll see."

The initial reaction to the loss to the Lakers was the Clippers might have been caught up in the hype and predictions they could represent the Western Conference in the NBA Finals.

But the reality is they probably were caught off guard by an unsung Lakers bench that got hot in the fourth quarter.

"I'm sure (players) talk about (expectations) and they hear them," Rivers said. "We have our own and they're probably higher or the same."

The Clippers bounced back with wins over the Golden State Warriors and Kings.

Despite the high expectations, the Clippers have shortcomings. There's a lack of depth behind Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, for example.

Rivers doesn't plan to rush Antawn Jamison into the mix among the bigs, saying the veteran is on the team for the end of the season and postseason.

"The past couple of games we've played our defense, and everybody in here knows what that means and I think it's working," Paul said. "We still got a ways to go, but we're building."

Trading up

Someone forgot to tell rookie guard Michael Carter-Williams his Philadelphia 76ers are supposed to be tanking to land a high draft choice.

Carter-Willians, the 11th pick in the draft, had an electrifying debut Wednesday with 22 points, 12 assists, nine steals, seven rebounds and just one turnover in the 76ers' 114-110 victory over the defending champion Miami Heat.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau:

• Carter-Williams' nine steals were the most in a debut since steals became an official stat in 1973-74.

• The 12 assists were the second-most in a career debut in NBA history. Ernie DiGregorio had 14 for the Buffalo Braves in 1973-74.

• The 22-12-9-7 combination had been achieved only twice. Utah's Rickey Green had 26 points, 12 assists, nine steals and seven rebounds in November 1982, and San Antonio's Johnny Moore had 26 points, 13 assists, nine steals and 11 rebounds in January 1985.

Trading down

Is Miami feeling some heat?

There won't be any panic in South Florida after just three games, but the Heat already is in a rare slump – if you could call losing consecutive games a slump.

After beating Chicago to open the season, the Heat lost back-to-back games to Philadelphia and Brooklyn, its first skid since losses Jan. 8 to Indiana and Jan. 10 to Portland.

The last words

"I was waiting for this moment, and I wanted the ball. I never remember having one, but this was by far the best one." – Phoenix guard Eric Bledsoe to reporters after his three-pointer with seven-tenths of a second left gave the Suns a win over Utah and a 2-0 start.

Follow The Bee's Jason Jones on Twitter @mr_jasonjones and read more at www.sacbee.com/kings.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

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