The Clippers found a game they simply couldn't mess up Monday.
They merely needed to be slightly above average when they faced the Golden State Warriors, grasping what remained of their sagging confidence and making the most of their many opportunities for an easy road victory.
Indeed, the talented but inexperienced (sound familiar?) Warriors did all they could to ensure the end of the Clippers' three-game losing streak. Oh, the Clippers did their part, taking full advantage of all the Warriors had to give en route to a 99-89 victory before 12,196 at the Arena in Oakland.
Michael Olowokandi scored 24 points, including 20 in the second half, when the Clippers powered away from the Warriors. He also took 12 rebounds. The Clippers led by as much as 82-62 in the fourth quarter before the game turned into a festival of fouls in the closing minutes and the Warriors were able to draw closer.
Elton Brand added 17 points and 11 rebounds for his 10th consecutive double-double. He also had five blocks. Corey Maggette and Eric Piatkowski added 16 and 14 points, respectively. The Clippers held the Warriors to 30-for-87 shooting and feasted on Golden State's 18 turnovers, turning them into 25 points.
So, why don't the Clippers play that way all the time?
The short answer is that the Clippers (4-7) are a better and more confident team on the road than at Staples Center. They won their third game in six away from home. They are 1-4 at Staples, and looked disorganized while giving away a 15-point third-quarter lead in Sunday's 84-78 loss there to the Seattle SuperSonics.
"I don't have an answer for that," Coach Alvin Gentry said. "It's all about doing what we need to do, going to our strengths. Michael was going well, so we tried to keep getting him the ball. Elton came up with some big plays. It was one of those games that was a total team effort. Obviously, it was a win we desperately needed."
By the end of the first quarter, the Warriors had more rebounds (21) than points (17), which said something about their strengths and weaknesses. Golden State is one of the league's top rebounding teams.
Scoring points and winning games are a different story.
The Clippers aren't a good team at the moment, but the Warriors are in worse shape. In fact, only the Warriors (3-9) and the Lakers (3-7) trail the Clippers in the Pacific Division standings.
The Warriors, coming off a 43-point victory Saturday against the Orlando Magic, scored the game's first two baskets, held leads of 6-1 and 8-7, but the Clippers snapped out of an early funk and slowly took control.
By halftime, the Clippers had a 52-38 lead, mixing strong shooting and steady play with the ball with a solid defense to hold off the sputtering Warriors.
The Clippers led, 73-58, after the third quarter, countering Golden State's 12-0 run that trimmed a 58-40 deficit to 58-52 midway through the period with a 15-6 run.
That pretty much sealed the deal.
"We felt this was a game we could get," Brand said. "Now we can take a day off and relax. We should have won two [including the Seattle game Sunday], but one is good enough to stop the bleeding.
"I don't care what anybody says, we gave one away at home against Seattle."
Golden State controlled the backboards, but little else in the first half. The Warriors made 13 of 43 shots (30.2%), which helped to explain a deficit that reached 52-37 after Clipper guard Keyon Dooling's jumper in the closing moments of the second quarter.
Clipper point guard Andre Miller rebounded from four-for-19 shooting in Sunday's loss to the SuperSonics, making wise decisions. When a shot was available, Miller took it. When it wasn't, he found an open teammate.
Given the Warriors' mediocre defensive pressure, there always seemed to be an open Clipper for Miller to find. Miller had four assists to go with six points in the first half.
He would finish with nine points, eight assists and one loose tooth, the result of an errant elbow from Golden State's Dean Oliver in the closing moments.