They survived the 38-point onslaught of Stephen Curry, who had 38 points and hit nine 3-pointers. They shut down Klay Thompson, who scored 38 on Wednesday but had only seven shots.
They didn’t back down and they kept their composure at the same, and the Clippers rolled to a 126-115 win over Golden State in their home opener at Staples Center Thursday.
Chris Paul simply took over with his 42 points – one shy of his career high – along with 15 assists and six steals. No one has recorded a line like that in the NBA since 1985-86.
“He was awesome,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “I thought he did a good job running the team and demanding guys get into their sets. I thought that was important for us.”
In an emerging rivalry, the clubs did have one dust-up in the second quarter. Golden State center Anderw Bogut fouled DeAndre Jordan hard for a foul, and then the two exchanged shoves and picked up technical fouls.
“Both teams want to go somewhere,” Rivers said. “Golden State was so close last year to winning the title. We just want to jump into that category. Both teams had an urgency about it. I liked the intensity.
“When nothing sidetracks you and just keep playing, that’s what I was proud of. When we got the lead and all of a sudden things started getting chippy, we were able to keep our composure and keep playing. That’s a really good sign for us. That’s toughness.”
Blake Griffin had 23 points and 10 rebounds in a performance that Rivers called “dominant,” and J.J. Redick scored 17. Jordan had nine points and 17 rebounds to lead the Clippers to a 44-33 rebounding edge.
Jamal Crawford had 10 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter.
Thursday marked the first time the Clippers have played Golden State since Jan. 21, when the Warriors scored a 106-99 victory to capture the season series, 3-1.
It also ended a contentious month in which the teams met three times. The first time was a 115-94 Warriors home win in which they outscored the Clippers in all four quarters.
Three days later and after a win over the Lakers, the rejuvenated Clippers scored a 115-89 win over visiting Golden State. The Clippers jumped out to a 35-12 after the first quarter and led, 103-66, heading into the final period.
“That game was different,” Rivers said. “There was something going on clearly in that game and you could see it. I asked the guys about it today and they all started laughing, so that was the answer. The spirit was different in that game. That’s what we have to get to every game.”
Playing the same opponent that close together doesn’t happen often in the NBA, but Rivers would like to see more of it.
“I wish we did that more in the league where we play them and then play them again the next night, like in baseball,” he said. “I love that because that second game is a monster and I love that. I think that’s fun.”
The next time the clubs play is on Christmas Day at Oracle Arena. The other two meetings are Jan. 30 and March 12.
After a day of sorting through the remnants of the Clippers’ opening night loss to the Lakers, Coach Doc Rivers might as well have quoted one of Chris Paul’s most favorite recent sayings:
“It’s a process.”
On both ends of the court, the Clippers clearly have not reached the stage where they’re thinking with their feet instead of their heads. He said he doesn’t mind which reaches that stage first, the offense or the defense, but said he preferred it would be the offense.
Then again, he stressed the defense the same he did since the day he arrived.
“Defensively, this is what I’ve learned: We can be really good, but we’re not at all yet,” Rivers said. “I look at our personnel and athleticism and I think we could be a really good defensive team. But as the game the other night showed, we’re such a long way away, and we’ve got to take the drill stuff to the floor.
“I actually went back and looked at our two practices previous and the coverages were great, the drills were great, everybody was in the right spot. Then the lights came on and we stopped doing it. If it does come, I think we can be a special team in that way.”
To Rivers, defense is not just effort that separates units. It’s learning the system, the players learning to trust each other, and all of the muscle memory and brain memory comes automatically.
“It used to be we always thought on defense all you have to do is play hard,” River said. I don’t believe that. You do have to do that, but if everybody played hard defensively, individually, you would not be a good defensive team. The biggest change in my thinking defensively is as much as you have to work on continuity on offense, you have to work that way on defense. Defense is continuity, It’s talking, being in the right place.
“The only way DeAndre Jordan can go to the opposite side when the big rolls is he knows for a fact and has the trust that someone has his back. When that happens it’s beautiful to watch. It’s not happening yet.”
And when does that happen?
“I don’t know,” he said. “When it happens, you’ll know it. You’ll see it. And the thing with both is it never stays. It goes, it comes back. That’s just part of it. I guess like a relationship.”
“That was way too deep,” River said with a laugh. “I’m sorry about that one.”
If the first game taught any lesson, it’s that the Clippers will have to learn that having a target on them might be a heavier burden than they might have imagined.
Coach Doc Rivers said afterward that when he coached the Celtics, it was before they won the NBA title that teams came after them with more vigor than after the Celtics were champs. In his mind, a team “anointed” to be a contender is more irksome than a champ.
“I thought this was going to be a brutally tough game. I kept saying it all week,” Rivers said. “That team heard for four or five months how good we are. I told our guys tonight we’re fighting human nature. That team is coming after you with everything they have. I don’t know if you can match that, and at the end of the day we did not.”
Jamal Crawford, who only days before said he hangs on every word Rivers delivers, said a little more in-depth understanding of Rivers’ words might be needed.
“He’s been there before, he has that credibility and he’s seen it all,” Crawford said/ “So I think the next time he says something like that we’ll take heed.”
Doc Rivers was asked if he saw a silver lining in the defeat. Doc Rivers saw only that the Clippers are 0-1.
“I’m not a believer in that,” he said. “I hear what you’re saying. I’ll find it on film if there’s a silver lining.”
And just like Jamal Crawford wanted to see the tape to believe his eyes, the video will get a lot more scrutiny from the coach.
“In the whole scheme of things, you’ve just got to keep getting better,” Rivers said. “We’re going to have a quick film session tomorrow that showed us breakdowns we had as a team and they took advantage of them, but a lot was created by us.”
A four-point lead heading into the fourth quarter and the Clippers were facing an untested group of reserves trying to keep the Lakers in the game.
“We just couldn’t put them away,” Jamal Crawford said. “We’d go up four, we’d go up six, they just hung around. I have to watch the tape. They just continued to hang around, hang around, and we ended up giving them some chances.”
The Clippers not only gave up 41 points in the fourth quarter in a 116-103 season-opening loss to the Lakers, they gave up 48 consecutive points to the Lakers’ reserves.
The pride of the Clippers in 2012-13 was one of the top benches in the league. They opened this season by being outscored by the second unit, 76-34.