Doc Rivers’ push to transform DeAndre Jordan into a dominant interior defender is already paying dividends.
Challenged by Rivers before the season began to win the NBA’s defensive player of the year award, Jordan is working toward the honor with the kind of performance he had against the Pelicans.
Jordan had 14 points and 20 rebounds — two off his career high — and Blake Griffin had 21 points and 10 rebounds before fouling out with 4:05 left in the Los Angeles Clippers’ 108-95 victory Wednesday night.
"It’s fun to take on that challenge," Jordan said. "It’s part of my job to be energetic. If I’m not playing well I can still play with energy and that spark to get other guys going."
Chris Paul added his own double-double against his former team, with 12 points and 11 assists in the Clippers’ third straight win.
"Outstanding," Paul said of Jordan’s effort. "He had five blocks, too. He was MVP of the game. We were a little sluggish. D.J. kept telling us, `Come on, fellas.’"
Jared Dudley had 20 points, one of seven Clippers in double figures. Jamal Crawford scored 17 points, making 10 of 11 free throws, and Darren Collison added 14, hitting all nine of his free throws.
"D.J. kept us in it with his defense and rebounding," Clippers coach Rivers said. "He’s just going after things. He accepts his role and he’s become a star in it. He’s still going to score by doing all of that stuff."
Anthony Davis led the Pelicans with 24 points and 12 rebounds in his return after missing seven games with a broken left hand.
"It’s great just to get back out there with my teammates, have fun and do the things that I’m used to doing," he said. "I’ve got to get back in a rhythm. You can work out for as much as you want and train as much as you want, but that game rhythm is a lot different. Hopefully it won’t take me long to get my shot back and the plays I usually make and get back in the groove."
Ryan Anderson added 17 points, Jrue Holiday had 13 points and 10 assists, and Tyreke Evans had a triple-double of 11 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists after missing the past two games with a sprained left ankle.
"When I got in and started running up and down the floor, it was a little tight. But coach kept me out there and it got looser," Evans said. "It was big (getting himself and Davis back), but we’re going to need everybody on this team. Everybody’s a big key, but we’re still learning to play with each other."
Austin Rivers, the 21-year-old son of Doc Rivers, had two points while playing 14 minutes in a reserve role.
"It’s my first time beating him so that’s nice," said the elder Rivers, whose wife watched the game on TV. "She was cheering for Austin 100 percent."
New Orleans lost for the third straight game and fifth time in its past seven.
The Clippers’ reserves carried them in the fourth when Griffin didn’t score before fouling out. Willie Green hit two of their five 3-pointers in the quarter, with Dudley adding two of his four and Paul tossing one in, too.
"We kept a double-digit lead but you never felt comfortable because we couldn’t pull away," Rivers said. "We played pretty flat."
The Clippers pulled away in the third after the Pelicans closed within four points. Crawford beat the shot clock with a 3-pointer, launching a 15-2 run that extended the Clippers’ lead to 70-53. Griffin scored six points.
Davis scored the Pelicans’ final four points to get them to 78-65 heading into the fourth.
NOTES: With no practice Thursday, comedy fan Griffin said he planned to see Will Ferrell in "Anchorman 2." … Clippers F Matt Barnes dressed and was cleared to play, but didn’t as he returns from surgery to repair a torn retina in his left eye. … Former Clippers Eric Gordon (nine points) and Al-Farouq Aminu (six points) both started against their former team.