They went with their NBA-high 31st different starting lineup, inserting Lou Williams and rookie Sindarius Thornwell with the regular Clippers starters at a time of the season when each game has so much meaning.
They had six players scoring in double figures, the Clippers using all of that vitality to push themselves to a 116-102 victory over LeBron James and Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday night at Staples Center before 19,130 fans.
Thornwell was given the toughest assignment of the night, being told to defend James.
Not only did Thornwell hold his own defensively against James, he scored a career-high 14 points.
“It was a team win,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “Like, there were so many different guys. …Sindarius was absolutely sensational. His offense was good, but his defense was better. And then everybody else contributed in their way and it was nice.”
James finished with 25 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. He even had the crowd on its feet when he blew by DeAndre Jordan for a dunk in the third quarter.
But the Clippers withstood it because they had so many offensive weapons to throw at the Cavaliers.
Jordan had another 20-20 game with 20 points and 23 rebounds.
Tobias Harris had 23 points, seven rebounds and four assists. Williams and Austin Rivers both had 15 points, and Montrezl Harrell had 20 points off the bench.
“It makes it hard to guard us,” Doc Rivers said about having six players score in double figures.
As the Cavaliers began to slice into a 19-point Clippers lead, Cleveland coach Ty Lue began to employ the “Hack-A-DJ,” intentionally fouling Jordan to slow the game down and to test the center’s free-throw shooting. Jordan went through a stretch in which he was three-for-six from the free-throw line, giving the Clippers a 111-102 lead with three minutes left.
When he took a seat on the bench, the Clippers opened a 114-102 lead on a Harris three-pointer.
Lue called a timeout with 1:46 left and pulled his starters, obviously figuring this game was over.
As a result, the Clippers remained in the eighth spot in the Western Conference, just a half-game ahead of Denver and Utah.
Their 35-28 record gives the Clippers a .547 winning percentage.
The Clippers started strong, using the energy of Thornwell and his 11 first-quarter points and Williams’ three-point bomb that beat the buzzer to give L.A. an 18-point cushion entering the second.
The Clippers increased their lead to 56-37 in the second quarter, surging behind Harrell’s 12 points in the quarter.
But when James began to assert his force in the third quarter, scoring 12 points, the Clippers saw their lead slip to 85-77 entering the fourth.
“It’s great to win it, but we’re in a race,” Doc Rivers said. “We can’t get caught looking at what we’ve done. It’s about what we need to do. Honestly, this was a great win for us, and I swear I’ve moved on. It’s all about Orlando now for me.”
Follow Broderick Turner on Twitter @BA_Turner