Clippers use lessons from Spurs series against Houston Rockets

Clippers use lessons from Spurs series against Houston Rockets
Clippers guard J.J. Redick, center, and DeAndre Jordan, right, put defensive pressure on Rockets guard James Harden during Monday's game. Harden had nine turnovers in the Rockets' 117-101 loss to the Clippers. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

The same mentality that Blake Griffin had against the Spurs spilled over into Monday's game against the Houston Rockets.

"Last night, there were like 50 seconds left, and we were up by 11, and I was still like, 'Come on guys, we can't rest yet,'" Griffin said. "Even going into the postgame interview, I felt like I was still on edge a little bit just because those games [against the Spurs] were so close, and every single mistake you make is costly. That's a good thing that we took away from that series."

The Clippers played a grueling seven-game first-round series against the defending champion Spurs, in which all but one of the games were decided in the fourth quarter, and three of the games were decided in the final seconds. In Game 7, Chris Paul made the game-winning shot with one second left to give the Clippers a 111-109 win, and advance them to the second round.

They're still on their toes.

Playing without Chris Paul in Game 1 against the Rockets on Monday, the Clippers pulled off a 117-101 win. In that game, the Clippers trailed by as much as 13 points in the second quarter, but they didn't panic. Instead they slowly chipped away at that advantage, cutting it to just four points at halftime. Then in the fourth quarter, they went on a 12-0 run to secure the victory.

"I think that's something that we learned in the Spurs series," J.J. Redick said. "No matter what the other team's doing, the runs and all of that stuff, we just have to continue to trust in what we do and eventually we'll be in the game."

The Clippers won a franchise-best 26 road games this season. In the playoffs, they won two away games against the Spurs, including an elimination Game 6. Then on Monday they beat a Rockets team on the road that had six days of rest, while the Clippers had only one.

"Part of [Monday] night is who we've been," Coach Doc Rivers said. "I don't know why people miss it. We've been a mature team. We've been a pretty mentally tough team all year."

Playing the Spurs just sharpened those qualities.

"You go into a series with the Spurs, win or lose, you're going to be better," Rivers said.

Twitter: @melissarohlin