The alarm sounded when the Clippers trailed by 21 in the first half and they seemed totally opposed to playing any defense.
Once the Clippers awoke from their slumber late in the second quarter and matched New Orleans’ energy, they then had to fight to secure a 112-103 victory over the Pelicans on Sunday afternoon at the Smoothie King Center before 16,378 fans.
“This game was huge,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “We told our guys — and I don’t say it very often — ‘this is a playoff-implication-game and we have to come in with that intensity.’ I thought [the Pelicans] started the game with that and as the game went on we kind of wore them down.”
Blake Griffin was the catalyst for the Clippers with 27 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists and two big-time three-pointers in the fourth.
But he had plenty of help from his four other teammates who scored in double figures and picked up the slack.
Lou Williams had 22 points, six rebounds and four assists off the bench. He has now scored 20-plus points in 12 consecutive games off the bench, the longest streak since Bubbles Hawkins had 13 straight with the New Jersey Nets from January through February in 1977, according to Elias Sports.
DeAndre Jordan had a double-double with 12 points and 19 rebounds, rookie Tyrone Wallace had 19 points, six assists and six rebounds and Milos Teodosic had 12 points, six assists and four rebounds.
As a group, they all got a tongue-lashing from Rivers at halftime.
“When coaches say what you need to hear and players come out and execute on it, that’s perfect timing,” Griffin said. “[Rivers] just said our effort was poor. We watched some film, a couple of things to clean up. But most of it was effort.”
The Clippers were having it handed to them by a Pelicans team playing without All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins, who is out for the season because of a ruptured left Achilles tendon injury.
“They knew that Cousins was gone,” Rivers said. “It was that energy trying to show, ‘Listen, we’re not going to back up without him.’ But we got attacked early. What I loved is at the end of the second quarter was the change of the game. We cut it 11 and then we came out in the third quarter and defended like we should defend.”
The first step for the Clippers was cutting the Pelicans’ 56-35 lead in the second quarter to 62-51 at the half.
The next step for the Clippers was to keep the pressure on, which they did in taking an 80-77 lead by the end of the third. They did this by playing stellar defense and outscoring the Pelicans 45-21 to get the lead.
The final step was holding on to an 11-point lead, which the Clippers finally did when Griffin drilled a three-pointer with 42.8 seconds left for a game-sealing 108-102 lead.
“Defensively, I thought we settled in and got stops,” said Griffin, whose four three-pointers made tied his career high. “In the first half, our effort wasn’t right. Our rotations weren’t right. It was kind of a snowball. Then we just sat down and defended and executed our defensive game plan.”