Doc Rivers wasn't sure beforehand what kind of message his team could send. The Clippers' body language in the final minutes said it all.
Jamal Crawford skipped gleefully across the court, DeAndre Jordan dabbed his teammates' hands and J.J. Redick held one finger aloft in triumph.
There was plenty to celebrate Wednesday night at Staples Center as the Clippers completed their craziest comeback of the season.
A game that was a wipeout for 43 minutes ended in a runaway in the other direction, the Clippers somehow emerging with a 103-98 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Clippers were down by 14 points with 5 minutes 26 left and it didn't matter. They scored 22 of the game's final 25 points, reducing the Thunder's lead over them for third place in the Western Conference standings to 11/2 games.
“I don't know if the win is significant, it's just the way we won is,” Rivers said. “It taught us a lot of things.”
Start with finishing in impressive fashion.
Jordan completed two three-point plays in the final 1:49, including one in which he tipped in a missed jumper by Chris Paul and was fouled. Jordan made the free throw to put the Clippers up, 99-97, giving them their first lead since the game's opening minutes.
Crawford banked in a six-foot jumper to extend the cushion to 101-97 and actor Billy Crystal added an assist from his courtside seat by pointing out that Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook had stepped out of bounds while being harassed by Wesley Johnson.
Johnson made only one of his first 11 shots but was quickly forgiven after connecting on two three-pointers in the fourth quarter that helped spark the Clippers' comeback. Johnson finished with eight of his 11 points in the fourth quarter and had five steals overall.
“Eventually, everybody was telling me, it was going to go in,” Johnson said of his shots. “It happened.”
The Clippers (40-20) largely got it done with their defense. They held the Thunder (42-19) to five points over the final 7:26, stopping Kevin Durant and Westbrook after the prolific duo had made their usual array of circus shots.
“We just kind of turned our defense up and played the way we were supposed to play,” Jordan said.
The first of three games between the teams in 30 days was an annihilation for the first 31/2 quarters. The Clippers couldn't make shots, struggled to defend and were pulverized in the rebounding department. They couldn't even execute their trademark lob, Jordan taking a pass from Paul and clanking the ball off the back of the rim.
Rivers credited the intensity of his second unit for changing his team's fortunes.
“I just thought Oklahoma played harder, more aggressive, downhill for really three quarters,” Rivers said, “and then the bench came in and started doing it back to them.”
Paul finished with 21 points and 13 assists and Jordan added 20 points and 18 rebounds.
It was not a night the Clippers wanted to be without one of their top defenders. Small forward Luc Mbah a Moute sat out because of a lacerated left eyelid that was causing him to see double, forcing the Clippers to use a variety of alternatives to try and stop Durant. Few worked through the first three quarters, when Durant tabulated 25 of his 30 points.
Clippers reserve guard Austin Rivers, playing in his first game in almost a month, played some power forward and helped lock down Durant in the fourth.
The Clippers' body language told a different story through the first 31/2 quarters. Jordan's shoulders sagged, Johnson's eyes widened in disbelief and Doc Rivers continually extended his arms to signal timeouts.
“Our starting unit, we let them catch the ball wherever they wanted to, they killed us on the glass,” Jordan said.
The crowd booed the Clippers in the third quarter after Kyle Singler twice extended a Thunder possession with offensive rebounds, leading to a Durant jumper. It was a trend as Oklahoma City outrebounded the Clippers, 63-45.
Ultimately, those numbers were meaningless on a night the Clippers hope resonates all the way into the playoffs.
Follow Ben Bolch on Twitter: @latbbolch