The Clippers’ pregame layup line Sunday afternoon featured more than the usual shots and stretches.
Players blew into cupped hands. They rubbed their palms together for warmth.
A Kings game, the second half of the day’s doubleheader inside Staples Center, wasn’t set to start for another seven hours but a noticeable chill was already in the air. In the stands, fans reached for long-sleeved jackets.
“I haven’t played in cold like that in a while,” forward Patrick Patterson said.
It carried over to the start of their fourth preseason game.
Behind ice-cold shooting and defense that made them appear frozen at times, the Clippers trailed for all but 53 seconds of the first half against Melbourne United. On his 58th birthday, coach Doc Rivers received an underwhelming gift — a four-point halftime deficit against the visiting United.
“I had talked about at halftime just being us and playing defense the way we play, getting into bodies and being more physical,” Rivers said. “And then I was about to walk out and turned around and said, ‘By the way, who’s their best player?’ And the whole team said ‘43.’ I said OK, I was just checking because it didn’t seem like you guys knew that.”
They figured it out soon enough. After scoring 15 first-half points Chris Goulding, wearing No. 43, was held to just one point in the third quarter and the Clippers took control en route to a 118-100 victory.
Center Montrezl Harrell scored a team-high 22 points and Lou Williams added 16. points. They were among the seven Clippers to reach double figures but the scoring punch took time to arrive.
The Clippers needed 3 minutes and 23 seconds to score their first points and fewer than 13 minutes to fall behind by 11. They made only two of their 19 three-pointers in the first half. It took the Clippers until midway through the third quarter to finally find a rhythm, making 18 of their 20 shots in the quarter to outscore Melbourne by 23 points. Jerome Robinson — who finished with 15 points and five rebounds despite five fouls -- and Williams each led the way with eight points in the quarter.
A three-pointer by Patrick Beverley, who finished with 11 points and four rebounds, with 6:27 to play in the third gave the Clippers their first lead since 4:55 remained in the first quarter.
The turnaround wasn’t the product of an intricate halftime strategy adjustment by the coaching staff. It was attributed to something simpler.
“We knew our adjustment,” guard Landry Shamet said. “And the only adjustment was that they were playing harder than us.”
Kawhi Leonard did not play because of rest, though he is expected to take part in Thursday’s preseason finale against Dallas. So is promising second-round pick Terance Mann, who was unavailable Sunday after injuring his hip and hamstring the previous day in practice. Shamet had hurt his non-shooting, left wrist the same day but played through it, which Rivers said might have been a mistake. Shamet made one of his five three-point attempts before sitting the entire second half.
Beverley injured a calf but said it was not serious. Meanwhile forward Amir Coffey, who is on a two-way contract, left the locker room wearing a walking boot to protect an injured right ankle.
The injuries led Rivers to cancel Monday’s practice in hopes a day off will aid the recoveries.