Looking at the stat sheet, the Clippers appeared to win Monday's game against San Antonio.
They outshot the Spurs, 44.6% to 39.8%, outrebounded them, 44-39, and held them to two for 19 shooting from beyond the three-point line (10.5%).
The actual score: The Spurs won, 89-85.
The Clippers played well for 42 minutes Monday, then they had a complete breakdown in the fourth quarter, going scoreless after the 5:48 mark through the 25.8-second mark, a five-minute drought during which the Spurs turned a seven-point deficit into a five-point lead off a 12-0 run.
Even though the Clippers lost the game, they showed improvement in two vital areas — defense and rebounding.
No one questions the Clippers' ability to score. Chalk those last six minutes up to a bad lapse, an ephemeral dysfunction.
But what's more important here is that over the course of the game, against the defending NBA champions, they showed they can do stuff that they haven't shown much of this season.
The Clippers have the worst rebounding average in the league at 35.7 boards a game. The top rebounding team, the Sacramento Kings, averages more than 10 rebounds a game (47.4) than they do. They were outrebounded in each of their eight preseason games, and each of their six regular season games before playing the Spurs.
Finally, the Clippers outrebounded a team.
Also, defensively, they held a great shooting team to 39.8% on the game, playing the type of defense that Clippers Coach Doc Rivers has been espousing since he took over the team but has only seen in flashes.
"I got a feeling when I watch the fim tonight, I'm going to be really happy defensively," Rivers said. "When I watch on the other end, I'm going to be extremely frustrated — so, just call me in between."
Rivers usually has the opposite problem, having a lineup that boasts great scorers such as Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, Jamal Crawford and J.J. Redick.
In fact, it seemed as though Monday the Clippers excelled in the areas they normally struggle in, and struggled in the areas in which they normally excel.
Chris Paul entered Monday's game with 63 assists to five turnovers for an assist-per-turnover ratio of 12.60. Then against the Spurs, he committed four turnovers, including some vital ones down the stretch.
Sure, that led to the Clippers losing the game. But the big takeaway for Rivers was that the Clippers can be good in the areas that they're not known to be good at.