Short-handed and seemingly running on fumes as the game wore on Tuesday night, the Clippers let all but one point of their 22-point lead evaporate in what became a tense fourth quarter.
And because the Clippers didn't give in, they are tied with the Dallas Mavericks at 43-25. But Los Angeles owns the season-series tiebreaker, 2-1, over Dallas, and that puts the Clippers in the fifth seed in the Western Conference.
"The lesson there for our guys — and I told them this after the game — with all the injuries we have and how thin we are, when your starters are on the floor and you have that lead, that's the time to put them away," Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said.
"And what they did, they allowed them to hang around and now you have to bring your bench. And your bench is thin because you have so many guys out. It's going to be hard to score. It just bought too many variables into the game. So I hope that's a lesson for us."
When the Hornets went down by four points in the fourth quarter, they began to intentionally foul DeAndre Jordan with 4:20 left.
Jordan, who had 12 points and 14 rebounds, made three of six during a two-minute, 40-second stretch to help the Clippers maintain a four-point lead the Hornets were not able to overcome.
Then Chris Paul sealed the game for the Clippers, making three of four free throws in the final 14.9. Paul finished 21 points and eight assists.
Blake Griffin, who played in his second game after missing 15 with a staph infection in his right elbow that required surgery, had 19 points and 11 rebounds.
J.J. Redick continued his hot streak, scoring 23 points on 10-for-17 shooting, making it the eighth consecutive game he has scored at least 15 points. Nate Robinson added 12 points.
The injuries to Matt Barnes (right hamstring), Jamal Crawford (bruised right calf) and Jordan Hamilton (sprained right ankle) left the Clippers short on bodies.
Now they have to take advantage of having the easiest regular-season schedule left out of the 10 Western Conference teams that are either maneuvering for playoff position or looking to secure a postseason spot.
Of their 14 remaining games, seven are against teams with records under .500. But there still are tough, meaningful games ahead.
The Clippers will face a Washington team trying to move up in the Eastern Conference standings; a New Orleans team locked in a race with Oklahoma City for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West; a 30-36 Boston team that is vying for one of the last playoff spots in the East; a Golden State team that is the Clippers' nemesis; a Portland team seeking to keep a top-four spot in the West; a Memphis team hoping to maintain its top-two spot in the West, and a Phoenix team currently 10th in the West hoping to stay in the race.
Follow Broderick Turner on Twitter @BA_Turner