All night long, the Clippers played catchup in a game that was significant for their playoff hopes.
The Clippers recovered from a 20-point deficit in the third quarter and actually opened a late four-point lead, but Anthony Davis played like the superstar he is, producing 41 points and 13 rebounds to squash L.A.'s comeback and allow the New Orleans Pelicans to escape with a 121-116 win Tuesday night at Staples Center.
When the game hung in the balance, after the Clippers worked so hard to rally and take a 113-109 lead, they failed to execute with the precision they have often shown this season, getting outscored 12-3 as the Pelicans won their ninth straight.
"I just didn't think we executed throughout the game," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. "I really thought that if we had won the game, it would have been a robbery tonight. We didn't play with the right spirit. And it happens, but I don't know why it happened."
The Clippers were in position to steal a victory behind Lou Williams' 27 points and 11 assists, behind Tobias Harris' 27 points and 11 rebounds and behind Montrezl Harrell's season-high 26 points and eight rebounds.
Williams was the catalyst for the Clippers in the fourth quarter, scoring 14 points. But he was just two for seven from three-point range and just seven for 13 from the free-throw line.
"We didn't play great. I think that's it," Williams said. "Everybody else will [blame it on] playoff position and this and that. We've got to take these games one at a time. We didn't play great from start to finish. We put ourselves in a position to have an opportunity to win it, but it just wasn't going our way the entire night."
The Clippers were not able to take advantage of the Denver Nuggets losing to the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday night. The Clippers started the night as the ninth-seeded team and remained there, a half-game behind the eighth-seeded Nuggets in the Western Conference.
"It's not the end of the world that we lost tonight," Williams said. "We would have loved to get this game, especially with Denver losing tonight. It would have put us in a great position. But things happen."
After Davis made a driving layup and an off-balance bank shot, the score was tied at 113-113.
The Clippers called a timeout with one minute, nine seconds left to set up a play. But the Clippers didn't get a quality look as Williams missed a long three-pointer.
That led to Davis going to work again, scoring on a fadeaway for 115-113 lead with 30.5 seconds left.
Williams followed with a turnover, and the Clippers were forced to foul. Williams hit a long three to make it a one-point game, but the Pelicans sealed it at the line with Davis making the final free throws, after Williams missed a pair when he was intentionally fouled before he could try another three.
Davis had departed the game with three minutes, four seconds remaining in the first half and returned to the locker room with bruised ribs. He got X-rays that were negative for fractures and returned to play in the second half, giving the Clippers fits.
"We allowed a great player to be great," Rivers said. "And if you do that, they'll score 41 on you."