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17 NBA wins and counting for L.A. Clippers

LOS ANGELES, USA December 31 – Caron Butler drained six three-point shots and scored 29 points as the Los Angeles Clippers wrapped up a perfect December with a 107-96 NBA victory over the Utah Jazz.

The Clippers on Sunday stretched their club-record winning streak to 17 games. They also joined the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers and the 1995-96 San Antonio Spurs as the only NBA teams to go 16-0 in a single calendar month.

“We don’t talk about it, it just happens,” Clippers forward Blake Griffin said of the winning streak. “It’s a tribute to everybody. It’s unreal how many different ways we’ve won.”

Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro, who played on that ’95-96 Spurs team, said it was important that the streak does not obscure the ultimate goal of making a title run in the playoffs.

“Obviously, the streak is great. Don’t get me wrong,” he said. “But we’re thinking bigger than the streak.

“We’re thinking about the improvement throughout the season, handling the ups and downs.”

On Sunday it was Butler’s turn to lead the way. He made all six of his attempts from three-point range and shot 10-of-14 from the floor overall.

Chris Paul contributed 19 points with nine assists and five steals and Jamal Crawford added 19 points off the bench.

Utah’s Al Jefferson had 30 points that included 13 in the third quarter, when the Jazz mounted a rally that ultimately failed.

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Utah dropped their third straight decision — and their second to the Clippers in as many games.

When the two teams met on Friday in Salt Lake City the Clippers overcame a 19-point third-quarter deficit to win by two points.

On their home floor on Sunday, the Clippers led 71-59 in the third before Jefferson keyed a scoring run that saw the Jazz seize a 76-75 lead.

Paul, however, made two free throws to spark a 6-0 run for the Clippers, who did not let the lead get away from them again.

The Clippers’ streak is so impressive that even their glamorous cross-town rivals the Los Angeles Lakers have noticed.

“That’s extremely impressive to put together win streaks that are that long,” said Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant.

“It shows a lot of focus, it shows a lot of ability and a lot of depth because they can beat you multiple ways.”

The Clippers beat the Lakers in their first meeting this season and will take them on again on Friday at Staples Center in a contest designated as a Clippers home game at the arena the teams share.

Before then, the Clippers will take on the Nuggets in Denver on Tuesday, followed by a clash with the Golden State Warriors in Oakland on Wednesday.

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The meeting with the Lakers on Friday will be followed with a Saturday home game against the Warriors.

“It’s a challenge, but we’ve got to take it one game at a time,” Paul said. “We can’t look past anybody.”

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