LOS ANGELES – The reunion between Clippers coach Doc Rivers and two of his former players with the Boston Celtics never happened Saturday night.
Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett were missing in action, left behind at the Brooklyn Nets’ team hotel because of injuries. Two others starters, guard Deron Williams and center Brook Lopez, were also absent.
An easy game for the Clippers, you figured. But it wasn’t.
These games never are. The Clippers trailed by as many as 11 points midway through the third quarter but recovered for a 110-103 win and improved to 5-0 at home.
Pierce and Garnett, who won an NBA championship with Rivers in Boston, never made it to Staples. Pierce was bothered by a groin injury, Garnett by a sprained right ankle he suffered when he collided with Brook Lopez on Friday night in Phoenix.
Lopez injured his left ankle on the same play, and Williams sat out with his own left ankle injury. That meant Nets coach Jason Kidd was missing 80 percent of his starting lineup.
But it doesn’t always translate into a routine victory.
“Regardless of who the other team suits up, they’re NBA players,” Clippers guard J.J. Redick said. “Everybody has something to prove; everybody has a chip on their shoulder.
“I don’t think anybody on our team thought this was going to be an easy game. It was going to be a battle.”
It was, at least until the Clippers went on an 18-0 run in the third quarter.
“Sometimes you come out and play great, sometimes you don’t,” Rivers said. “We clearly didn’t have the energy.”
They also almost lost forward Blake Griffin, who grabbed his left foot with 7 minutes, 30 seconds left in the third quarter and limped to the locker room to be examined.
“It scared me,” guard Chris Paul said. “Made me nervous. I need him.”
It turned out to be a false alarm. Griffin returned with 4:58 left and finished with a season-high 30 points and 12 rebounds. Redick had 26 points, and Paul, despite a 1-for-10 shooting start, had his 10th consecutive double-double to start the season: 12 points and 13 assists.
The Clippers said Griffin rolled his foot on the play, but it’s apparently not serious.
“I came down normal and felt something in the back of my ankle,” Griffin said. “I don’t know what it was, to be honest. I felt like my ankle popped or moved a little.”
Asked how his foot felt after the game, he said, “Not bad. Better than it was when it first happened.”
That’s a good sign for the Clippers, even though a game that should have been much easier didn’t turn out that way.
“I don’t think it was a letdown,” Paul said. “We played against pros. They played well and they were scoring early. Everybody always says it’s a trap game, but I feel like when you play these games, it’s as tough as it is because they’re going to come out and play hard.”