There was a comforting familiarity to the final minutes for the Clippers, stars Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan all draped in sweatpants and towels on the bench as highly compensated cheerleaders.
It was a scene that had played out numerous times in recent seasons but never materialized in the early going this season until Wednesday night at Amway Center.
“D.J. actually said to me tonight, he was like, ‘Man these are the fourth quarters I miss, sitting down and cheering those guys on and getting to see them take over and play quality minutes,’ ” Griffin said after sitting out the fourth quarter of the Clippers’ 114-90 victory over the Orlando Magic.
The reserves did more than log quality minutes, actually outscoring its starting counterparts, 60-54. Jamal Crawford led the charge, scoring a team-high 22 points, and Jordan Farmar (13 points) and Spencer Hawes (10) also reached double figures.
The successful start to the Clippers’ seven-game, 12-day trip prompted team owner Steve Ballmer to hug Paul after the game and visit the locker room along with friend and Masters champion Bubba Watson.
“He said Bubba was going to give us golf lessons,” Griffin said of Ballmer, who sat along the baseline during the game.
The Clippers reserves shot the equivalent of a 10-under-par round against the Magic by extending leads and making eight of 12 three-point shots. The Clippers made 12 of 21 three-pointers overall, a robust 57.1%.
When Hawes and Farmar opened the fourth quarter with consecutive three-pointers that extended the Clippers’ advantage to 90-68, it became apparent that the starters would have the rest of the game off. And so would many of the fans, who departed in droves with 6 minutes 45 seconds left and the Magic trailing by 27 points.
Griffin (20 points) and Paul (16 points, nine assists) each played only 30 minutes, which could come in handy Thursday when the Clippers play Miami.
Coach Doc Rivers credited the team’s ball movement for the easy victory, saying it was the best it has been this season.
“We just passed up good shots for great shots, the ball went where it needs to go each possession,” said Crawford, who made eight of 12 shots.
Former USC standout Nikola Vucevic won the battle of the NBA’s top two rebounders, grabbing 14 for Orlando to Jordan’s 11, and it hardly mattered on a night the Magic trailed by as many as 28 points.
Neither did the shooting struggles of Griffin, who received some encouragement from Rivers midway through the game after missing seven of his first 12 shots.
“We told him at halftime, ‘If you’re going to be great, you have to be willing to go 0 for 30,’ ” Rivers said.
Griffin didn’t come close to that kind of performance, making three of six shots in the second half to finish eight of 18.
“Unfortunately, I didn’t make many, but they’ll fall,” Griffin said. “It’s not something that I’m worried too much about.”
There were plenty of reasons for optimism on a night the Clippers’ reserves made themselves at home in the team’s first game this season outside California.
“Let’s hope at some point it becomes a habit,” Rivers said, “that when our bench comes in, we’re better.”
When: 5 p.m. PST
Where: AmericanAirlines Arena.
On the air: TV: TNT, Prime Ticket; Radio: 980, 1330.
Records: Clippers 6-4; Heat 6-5.
Record vs. Heat (2013-14): 0-2.
Update: Chris Bosh has become the focus of Miami’s offense as expected since the departure of LeBron James, averaging 19.9 points per game but shooting only 41.5%. Dwyane Wade (hamstring) and Luol Deng (wrist) are questionable for the Heat, which has lost three of its last four games.