Playing their fourth road game in seven nights, they could have easily been overrun by the often overlooked Detroit Pistons.
Not this club.
Jamal Crawford scored 15 points and Chris Paul added 14 to lead the weary Clippers to their 10th straight win, 88-76 over the Detroit Pistons on Monday night.
”We didn’t shoot very well, and we didn’t do a lot of things we wanted to do,” said Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro. ”We just had a lot of guys make plays down the stretch and we get to go home with another win. Early in the season, we probably lose that game, but now we’ve gotten to the point where we can win ugly.”
No Clippers player scored more than 15 points, but they had five players score in double figures.
”This was a tough one, because we’ve been playing every other night and we’re ready to go home,” said Detroit native Willie Green. ”This was a great test for us, and we passed it.”
Blake Griffin also had 15 points for Los Angeles and Paul had seven assists. Griffin had two breakaway dunks in the last 30 seconds, one on a pass banked off the backboard by Matt Barnes.
”When I saw that it was just the two of us, I told him to keep coming,” Barnes joked. ”I figured a lot more people wanted to see Blake dunk than wanted to see me lay one in.”
Brandon Knight led the Pistons with 16 and Tayshaun Prince added 15. Detroit, which committed 17 turnovers, lost its fifth straight.
”We did enough defensive things to win the game, but when you are going against a team that strips and steals the ball and is very aggressive, everything has to be sharp,” said Pistons coach Lawrence Frank. ”We have to be more precise, and in the last six minutes, you know it is going to be harder against a team like that, but we have to be able to do it.”
Both teams struggled in the first half, with the Clippers taking a 42-40 lead into the intermission despite shooting just 39 percent. Detroit hit 42.5 percent of its shots, but managed only one free throw and two offensive rebounds. The Clippers tried for the last shot of the half, but Prince stole the ball and two quick passes gave Greg Monroe a wide-open layup at the buzzer.
Los Angeles got things in gear in the third quarter, quickly taking a 12-point advantage, but Griffin went to the bench with four fouls and Detroit was able to work its way back into the game.
The Pistons were within 63-60 at quarter’s end behind 13 points from Prince, but couldn’t keep up the pressure.
”We played a good first half, but once we turned it over a couple times in the third, we let them get out and do their thing,” Prince said. ”We didn’t execute in the second half, and that’s when you need it the most.”
Detroit committed three turnovers in a period of four possessions and Jason Maxiell missed a pair of free throws on the fourth, allowing Los Angeles to take an 11-point advantage with 6:45 to play. Brandon Knight also missed a technical-foul free throw in the stretch.
”We weren’t hitting a lot of shots, but we trusted our defense to make plays,” Barnes said. ”That was the way we finally won the game.”
The Pistons kept up the pressure, pulling down four offensive rebounds on one possession in the last 90 seconds, but couldn’t hit enough shots to make a serious rally.
”They turned on that playoff mentality, stepped up their defense and kind of shut us down,” rookie Andre Drummond said. ”The fourth quarter has been an issue all year. We aren’t closing games out.”
NOTES: Former Pistons All-Stars Chauncey Billups (foot) and Grant Hill (knee) were both inactive for the Clippers, while Rodney Stuckey (back spasms) missed the game for Detroit. Billups, the MVP of Detroit’s championship win in 2004, received a loud ”Chaun-Cey!” chant from the crowd during a fourth-quarter timeout. … Several members of the University of Michigan football team attended the game, including team captains Denard Robinson and Jordan Kovacs. Robinson, who hasn’t thrown a pass since late October due to an elbow injury, tossed a Nerf football to the Pistons mascot during a timeout.