LOS ANGELES -- During the first two-and-a-half quarters Saturday night, Doc Rivers' pregame concerns came to fruition.
With Brooklyn Nets stars Deron Williams, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Brook Lopez all sitting out because of injuries, the Los Angeles Clippers coach had worried his team would get off to a slow start and fail to match the energy of Nets' new starters.
"These games like tonight are very difficult because you have one team that is free and a has a bunch of pros who want to show everybody that they should be playing," Rivers said. "They're going to play at an unbelievable clip as far as intensity. Then you have another team who thought they were playing other guys, so it'll be interesting. [These games] scare me."
Indeed, the Clippers started off sluggishly, trailing by as many as 10 points in the first half and 11 in the second half. After he briefly left the game for a couple of minutes in the third quarter because of a left ankle injury, Blake Griffin's dramatic return sparked the Clippers' third-quarter rally.
The Clippers once again played down to the level of their opponent, which cost them games against the Los Angeles Lakers and Orlando Magic earlier in the season. This time, though, they were lucky enough to sneak out with a close win.
How it happened: The Clippers held a 29-26 lead at the end of the first quarter, but it didn't last. The Nets' bench unit -- sparked by Mason Plumlee, Tyshawn Taylor and Jason Terry -- took a 30-29 lead at the 10:41 mark of the second quarter and led the rest of the half, before the Clippers gained momentum and cut the deficit to 55-54 at intermission.
Brooklyn stretched the lead to 11 early in the third quarter, but the Clippers responded with a 22-10 run and a 76-75 lead heading into the fourth quarter. The Nets hung around for a majority of the final frame, but the Clippers' defense held them scoreless for a key two-minute stretch that sealed the victory.
What it means: After losing two straight on the road to drop to 3-3, the Clippers have bounced back with four straight wins. More importantly, their defense is slowly rounding into form -- especially in the second half of games. With a tough three-game stretch coming up -- Memphis, at Minnesota, at Oklahoma City -- their improvement will be tested by the West's elite.
Hits: Griffin had a season-high 30 points (12-of-19 shooting) and 12 rebounds.
Chris Paul continued his double-double streak (12 points, 13 assists), which is now at 10 games.
J.J. Redick had 26 points on 9-of-14 shooting (5-of-7 on 3-pointers).
DeAndre Jordan's work on the glass (16 rebounds) and defense at the rim (five blocks) was impressive.
Misses: The Clippers had 17 turnovers, 12 of which came in the first half.
The Clippers were often late to rotate and close out on the Nets' shooters, who went 9-of-23 from deep (39.1 percent).
Stat of the game: The Clippers controlled the boards 51-39, which has been a point of emphasis early in the season.
Up next: The Clippers will look to exact revenge on the rival Memphis Grizzlies on Monday at Staples Center.