The Clippers came to play the game and to win even if they were depleted.
So it didn’t matter that Chris Paul, J.J. Redick and DeAndre Jordan were home in Los Angeles resting.
The rest of the Clippers played to win but came up short despite pushing the Oklahoma City Thunder to the limit Thursday night in a thrilling 119-117 loss at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Jamal Crawford and Austin Rivers moved into the starting lineup with Paul and Redick out and put on a show, the guards combining for 64 points.
But Rivers, who scored a career-high 32 points and made a career-high seven of nine three-point shots, missed a driving layup with 3.9 seconds to play and the Clippers trailing by two points.
Russell Westbrook hustled in for the rebound, leaping high above everyone else to secure the ball.
He fell to the floor but called time.
When the Thunder inbounded the ball to Westbrook with 2.7 seconds left, he threw the ball high into the air as time ran out, the Clippers losing a tough game without their big guns.
“I told the guys before we went out there, ‘Nobody in the world is giving us a chance. We’re not going to be shocked. Let’s do what we do,’” said Crawford, who scored 32 points on 10-for-20 shooting and made five of eight three-point shots. “We play against one of the best starting units every single day and we give them hell. So it was like, ‘Let’s go for it.’”
The Clippers did, taking a 117-115 lead on a Rivers floater.
Westbrook had been a thorn in the Clippers’ side all game and finished two rebounds shy of a triple-double with 26 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds.
He tied the score at 117-117 and then put his fingerprints all over the end of the game.
Kevin Durant (31 points) missed a jumper late in the game.
Wesley Johnson went up to secure the rebound for the Clippers, but Westbrook stripped the ball away and called time with 37.4 seconds left.
Then the thing that had been an issue all game long for the Clippers rose up again and hurt them once more — rebounding the basketball.
Russell missed a shot for the lead, but Steven Adams tipped the ball in for the final margin.
The Clippers were outrebounded, 46-26.
They gave up 17 offensive rebounds, none bigger than the last two.
Cole Aldrich, who started at center in place of Jordan, had 10 rebounds.
“We just felt like toward the end of the game there we just made a couple of mistakes,” Rivers said. “So we were definitely looking to win.
“This wasn’t about a moral victory. We fought that whole game.
“It’s not like we are going home like, ‘Oh.’ We felt like we could compete. We competed and we just fell a little bit short.”
Follow Broderick Turner on Twitter: @BA_Turner