The Clippers' winning streak lives on. Barely.
It's apparently impervious to low-energy starts, extended scoring droughts and bungled end-of-game situations, all of which tormented the Clippers on Sunday afternoon at Staples Center.
The Clippers might have been given credit for beating themselves and ending the NBA's longest active winning streak had they not persevered through their mistakes for a 114-111 overtime victory over the New Orleans Pelicans.
They stretched their season-high winning streak to nine games after Wesley Johnson and Chris Paul made three-pointers on consecutive possessions in the extra period and the Clippers made just enough free throws in the final 38 seconds.
"Luckily we held on, and we'll take it," said Paul, who finished with 25 points, 11 assists, five rebounds and three steals. "All of them aren't going to be pretty."
Johnson's three-pointer from the corner gave the Clippers (25-13) a two-point lead that they extended to five on Paul's three-pointer with 65 seconds left. Johnson's three-pointer came without hesitation after he had made only two of his first 10 shots from that distance.
"I think the worst thing Wes could ever do in that situation is not shoot it or pass it up, because we've got the ultimate confidence in him," Paul said. "We're going to keep finding him."
The Clippers nearly kept finding ways to lose. They went the final 6:05 of regulation without a field goal amid lackluster ball movement and botched a play in the final seconds in which they were supposed to foul the Pelicans before they could get a shot off with the Clippers ahead by three points.
Instead, Clippers guard Austin Rivers fouled New Orleans' Jrue Holiday on a three-point attempt with 1.6 seconds to go. Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said his players were supposed to foul a Pelicans player while a pass, and not a shot, was in the air.
"I swear players around the league don't understand the difference in that," Doc Rivers said. "They still believe you have to catch the ball and unfortunately once he caught it he was already facing [the basket] and Austin's hands were in, so he was in trouble."
Holiday made all three free throws and Clippers center DeAndre Jordan couldn't connect on a subsequent inbounds lob from Johnson, sending the game into overtime. Holiday finished with 29 points and 11 assists.
The Clippers nearly cost themselves again after Luc Mbah a Moute and Johnson made only three of six free throws in the final 38 seconds of overtime, giving the Pelicans the ball with a chance to tie.
Doc Rivers had instructed his players to foul in those situations but Paul didn't make contact with New Orleans' Ryan Anderson, whose step-back jumper just short of the three-point line was off the mark at the buzzer.
"Those two were bad execution for us," Rivers said of the situations at the end of regulation and overtime.
It helped that the Pelicans were without All-Star forward Anthony Davis (back), continuing a trend in which the Clippers have dodged some of their opponents' best players during Blake Griffin's two-week absence because of a partially torn left quadriceps tendon. The Clippers beat the Utah Jazz without Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors, the Washington Wizards without Bradley Beal, the Charlotte Hornets (twice) without Al Jefferson and the Portland Trail Blazers without C.J. McCollum.
Completing a rare set of back-to-back day games, the Clippers had a flat start that was best illustrated by Jordan grabbing no rebounds in his first 10 minutes of playing time. He rebounded nicely to notch his eighth consecutive double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds to go with two blocks.
Jamal Crawford added 21 points off the bench for the Clippers, who improved to 8-0 since Griffin was sidelined on Christmas. Not that there weren't moments Sunday when it looked as if they might start a different sort of streak.
"Some games, you have to grind it out," Jordan said. "That's what we did today."
MORE ON CLIPPERS