Before taking on a Brooklyn Nets team that was missing four starters, Clippers coach Doc Rivers said he’s still learning about his team.
They had to start with the obvious Saturday night. Blake Griffin can dominate and J.J. Redick can shoot.
That helped save the Clippers from a load of embarrassment. The duo fueled a rally in the third quarter that pushed them to a 110-103 win over the Nets at Staples Center.
Griffin, shaking off a third-quarter foot injury, had 30 points and 12 rebounds and Redick hit five 3-pointers and added 26 points and the Clippers finally dispatched depleted Brooklyn.
Chris Paul extended his double-double streak to 10 games by getting 12 points and 13 assists, though he made only 3 of 12 shots.
Now, why did the Clippers need to rally against a team playing without Paul Pierce (groin strain), Kevin Garnett (sprained right ankle), Deron Williams (sprained left ankle) and Brook Lopez (sprained left ankle)? How did they fall as many points behind as 11 in that third quarter?
“It was something we talked about. I heard three or four guys talking about it in the locker room before Doc came and started his pregame speech,” Griffin said. “Then we talked about it in the pregame speech. And we talked about it on the court so I can’t say that it was one of those things where they took us by surprise.
“It didn’t. I was well aware and everyone else was well aware this is kind of a trap. Obviously we’ll take the win but we’ve got to get better.”
Rivers was taking timeouts to stop Nets runs, and then Griffin came down hobbling and had to go to the locker room to inspect his injury.
Griffin went down without contact with what the Clippers said was a foot injury.
“It just scared me not knowing exactly what it was, or what that feeling was,” Griffin said. “I haven’t felt that before. But I can put full weight on it without an unbearable amount of pain so it should be good.”
Paul was a little more alarmed.
“It scared me, made me nervous,” he said. “I need him like none other so I was glad to see he was OK.”
The fact that Griffin went down by himself threw a scare into Rivers.
“Whenever no one is around, those are the real injuries,” Rivers said. “It’s amazing, you can run into somebody at a million miles an hour and you’re rarely hurt. But when you see someone go down and no one is there, then you’re scared.
“That means your body has just decided that you didn’t want to play anymore.”
The Clippers, who are making a habit out of big runs in the third quarter, finally found some rhythm.
“Sometimes you come out and play great, sometimes you don’t,” Rivers said. “We clearly didn’t have the energy. In the second half Chris turned his energy up. Our pace was bad offensively and defensively. We turned it on and won the game so I’m happy about that, because it’s hard to not have it on and then turn it on. At least we did that.”
Rivers chuckled when he he pointed out the deficiencies and then saw some of his favorite statistics. The Clippers were still able to shoot 51.9 percent, score 110 points and limit Brooklyn to 42.4 percent shooting.
Jamal Crawford added 13 points and Byron Mullens was 4-for-4 from the field with two 3-pointers for 10 points and DeAndre Jordan had 16 rebounds and five blocked shots.
Redick hit two 3-pointers and scored 10 points in the third period and Griffin had 23 points and six rebounds at that point. They were the keys to a 16-0 run that turned the game around, though the Clippers held only a one-point lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Before the game, Rivers was asked if it was harder for a coach to learn about his new team, or for the team to learn about their new coach.
“I’m not sure which one is easier,” he said. “A coach has to learn everybody and the players just have to learn one. I guess you can look at it that way.
“I’m learning them still and I think they probably have a better understanding of me before I have it of them would be my guess. I don’t know that. I’m still earning a lot of stuff about our guys and hopefully that will make me a better coach.
Both factions were set up to learn plenty after the likes of Andray Blatche (19 points) and Mason Plumlee (19 points off the bench) sparked the Nets, who had six players reach double figures.