The Clippers returned from one of the best trips in franchise history with something to prove.
They needed to show they could sustain that kind of success at home.
An entire month had passed with the Clippers somehow posting a far better record outside of Staples Center than within it.
Home started to feel like home again Monday night for the Clippers, who extended their winning streak to five games with a 127-101 romp over the Minnesota Timberwolves, an encouraging start to a four-game homestand.
Of course, the Clippers will soon have to play teams not missing more than half their starters.
The severely undermanned Timberwolves could not counter J.J. Redick beyond the three-point arc or Blake Griffin inside it, Redick converting two four-point plays on the way to 23 points and Griffin packing a week's worth of highlight dunks into the third quarter.
Griffin faked out Thaddeus Young, driving around the forward for a left-handed dunk. He added a reverse two-handed dunk after taking a pass in the paint from Matt Barnes. Then Griffin had fans at the Clippers' 150th consecutive sellout roaring when he took a no-look, behind-the-back pass from Chris Paul for another dunk.
It was a display worthy of the Western Conference player-of-the-week award Griffin had won earlier in the day. He finished with 23 points on eight-for-14 shooting to go with eight rebounds before departing with more than three minutes left in the third quarter and the Clippers leading by 33 points. No Clippers starter played more than 26 minutes in the team's most one-sided win this season.
"The best part about it is the way we executed," Griffin said. "The win is great and all that, but the way our bench came in and did what they needed to do and then we came back in and kept the lead and didn't have any slippage, I thought that was the best part."
Griffin celebrated by giving New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski his jersey after the game amid a surreal locker room scene that also included an appearance by singer Justin Bieber.
The Timberwolves missed dunks, airballed jumpers and botched a four-on-one fastbreak, all things one might expect from a team missing three starters. Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin and Nikola Pekovic were sidelined by injuries, taking a combined 41.7 points, 17.4 rebounds and 12.6 assists out of play.
Shabazz Muhammad scored 18 points for what was left of the Timberwolves, who did manage to secure a victory over the Lakers on Friday before leaving town.
Winning six of seven games on their recent trip only nudged the Clippers (12-5) into seventh place in their ultra-competitive conference, a reminder of the significance of beating teams as short-handed as the Timberwolves, particularly at Staples Center.
The Clippers had lost three of their first seven games at home, suffering nearly half as many defeats as the seven they had all of last season. Coach Doc Rivers said he wanted to make Staples Center an environment that opponents dreaded but acknowledged it would take more than voluble fans.
"It has to be a tough place to play and teams have to know when they come in here they're going to have to fight," Griffin said.
It requires the kind of performance that Redick put on against the Timberwolves. The shooting guard made seven of 11 shots, four of five from three-point range, and did his best Jamal Crawford impersonation by getting fouled on two of the three-pointers.
"He learned that from Jamal," Rivers joked, referring to the NBA's all-time leader in four-point plays.
Minnesota was more than competitive in the early going, leading by six points early in the second quarter before the Clippers bench sparked a 17-2 run that permanently swung the momentum. Center-forward Spencer Hawes had perhaps his best half as a Clipper, making three three-pointers and scoring 11 first-half points. He finished with 14, and four rebounds.
"The second unit was great," Rivers said. "They saw what we were not doing and came in and did it, and everyone joined in."