5 things: Clippers ‘needed’ rout of Pistons amid tough stretch

Los Angeles Clippers head coach Doc Rivers has had a theory on the NBA’s regular season for at least nine years.

Forget 82 games. In Rivers’ eyes, the season is separated into three parts: the beginning (20 games), the middle (40 games) and the end (20 games). With each period comes varying difficulties and excitement.

"During the first 20 games, everyone is excited," Rivers said. "Those are easy games to get up for. During the last 20 games, everyone who is going to the playoffs is excited because they can see the end.

"The middle 40 games are the hard ones. It is when your team gets better and mentally tougher. It is when you learn about yourself on tired nights."

According to Rivers, the Clippers (17-7) are currently amidst the middle, most challenging stretch, which is why a 113-91 blowout win of the lowly Detroit Pistons (5-20) was a proper way to start a 15-game stretch that features 12 home games — many of which will be against playoff locks and contenders.

"These are the tough ones and it is hard," Rivers said, alluding to the fact that the Pistons are a struggling team, which can cause their opponent to overlook them.

After a predictably slow start, in which the Clips could barely run their offense, grab a rebound or get back in transition, the bench — led by Jordan Farmar and Glen Davis — came in and shook up the complexion of the game, jump-starting a 24-8 run early in the second quarter that distanced the two teams.

Overall, six players scored in double figures, including the entire starting lineup, and Blake Griffin (18 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists) and Chris Paul (11 points, 8 assists) rebounded in limited minutes from a subpar road trip.

"These are the games when you have to figure it out," Rivers continued. "You’re going to lose some of them. You have to grind through them. And this is the stretch."

Here are five takeaways from Monday’s game:

Out of control early

For most of the first quarter, the Clips resembled the lackluster team that dropped winnable games in Washington and Milwaukee. They had seven turnovers — uncharacteristic for one of the most effective first-quarter teams in the league — and were careless and sloppy with their passing, spacing and decision-making. Despite shooting 66.7 percent, they only led by two points heading into the second, and had considerable difficulty keeping Andre Drummond off the glass and away from the rim. It’s just a reminder that, against the wrong team, that type of lull could bury the Clips early and cost them a game down the line.

Farmar’s new groove?

With Jamal Crawford struggling to find his rhythm (0 of 6 shooting), Jordan Farmar stepped up in arguably his best game of the season (15 points on 6-of-12 shooting, 5 assists). He looked comfortable running the offense and moving off the ball — he had only had two double-digit scoring efforts up until this point — and didn’t hesitate to shoot when open. Though he has yet to replicate the valuable production Darren Collison provided last season, Farmar has began to find his niche. As Rivers says, he is the key to the bench finding its consistency.

Just what they needed

As ridiculous as it may sound, most athletes’ confidence fluctuates based off their recent performances. That was a bad thing for the Clippers, as their last two games were wholly disappointing. Monday night, however, they bounced back with another monster home blowout, allowing their starters to rest, and their bench to get more crucial reps playing together. "It’s crazy. When you play so many games, you think teams don’t play off confidence and stuff like that. I think we just needed to see what it was like to defend and see the ball through the net," Paul said.

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Offense is the key to defense?

The old adage suggests that good defense leads to good offense, but J.J. Redick has a different interpretation. "Our defense starts with our offense," Redick said. "When we play good offense and score the ball, then a team against our set defense. I think we have a pretty good half-court defense. When we play good offense, our defense should be pretty good, too." Point taken. The Clips’ offense hummed to the tune of 53.8 percent shooting and 35 assists on 43 made field goals, and their defense followed suit, forcing 17 turnovers and allowing just 42.2 percent shooting.

Spencer Hawes’ timetable

Spencer Hawes, who out with a bone bruise on his left knee, missed his second consecutive game. It is unclear when he will return, according to Rivers. "When the trainer comes to you, he’s telling you the guy is close," Rivers said. "When he doesn’t come to you, he’s telling you the guy is not close. J.P. [Clippers trainer Jasen Powell] has been far away from me, so that’s the way I judge it." In Hawes’ absence, Glen "Big Baby" Davis (8 points, 4 rebounds) played more minutes than normal (19), and was more energetic and effective as the third big.