Both teams had five days off for the All-Star break, but clearly the Clippers didn't bring their game back with them and the San Antonio Spurs did.
The Spurs were the more energized and efficient team, the Clippers the team that lacked focus and was flat at times.
That was a big reason why the Clippers dropped a 113-103 game to the Spurs on Tuesday night at Staples Center.
The Spurs had five players score in double figures, led by reserve Patty Mills' 25 points.
"I thought they were more ready for the game than we were," Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said. "And I thought they played with more energy. I thought they stayed focused throughout all the stuff. Whatever was going on out on the floor, I didn't think we did a very good job of that."
Blake Griffin was solid with 35 points and 12 rebounds, but he was issued a technical foul.
Chris Paul, playing in only his third regular-season game after missing 18 because of a separated right shoulder, struggled all game.
He missed nine of his 10 field-goal attempts, finishing with 11 points and nine assists.
"He looked tired tonight," Rivers said. "It happens."
Mills looked anything but tired.
He tore the Clippers apart, scoring 16 points in the fourth quarter. He scored San Antonio's first 11 points in the quarter, helping the Spurs open a 12-point lead.
When he took a seat on the bench for a rest, the Spurs sputtered some, their lead cut to 99-92.
But once Mills was re-inserted back into the game with 4:25 left, he immediately drilled a three-pointer that gave the Spurs a 10-point lead that spelled the end for the Clippers.
And to think Mills played so much because San Antonio All-Star point guard Tony Parker didn't play because of his many injuries that Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich called "various maladies."
"He killed us, really," Rivers said about Mills. "We started blitzing [double teaming] and even with that he made shots. I don't know if Parker could have been much better."
The Clippers were way off from three-point range, making just six of 21 (28.6%). They missed all seven of their three-pointers in the third quarter.
Meanwhile, the Spurs made nine of 20 (45%) of their three-pointers.
It was a game in which the Clippers were forced to play without their starting shooting guard. J.J. Redick is out indefinitely with a bulging disk in his lower back.
The Clippers were hoping to gain ground on the Spurs in the Western Conference. But the fourth-place Clippers fell three games behind second place San Antonio.
"I don't think anybody on our team played well tonight," Rivers said. "And I didn't coach well. So it's all of us.
"We all have to do better than what we did tonight to win against good basketball teams."
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