LOS ANGELES -- Doc Rivers is always talking about defense.
Everything begins and ends on defense for him, and he had recently said the Los Angeles Clippers were finally embracing being a defensive team. The players were trusting one other and trusting in the system.
Since Nov. 19 they were in the top four in opponent field-goal percentage, defensive efficiency, opponent 3-point percentage and opponent fast-break posts. All of those numbers and all of the progress went out the window Wednesday night, but it hardly seemed to matter as the Clippers someway, somehow rallied to beat the Dallas Mavericks 129-127.
It is the most points the Clippers have given up this season, but they buckled down when it mattered most at the end of the game after falling behind by as many as 17 points in the fourth quarter.
How it happened: The Clippers took a 100-91 lead with 2:47 left in the third quarter and looked primed to put the game away but couldn't make a basket while the Mavericks couldn't miss. The Mavericks went on a 15-0 run that became a 30-6 run as Clippers fans headed for the exits in the fourth quarter with the Clippers trailing 123-106. They would end up missing the Clippers' incredible comeback as they finished the game on a 23-4 run.
What it means: Before the game, the Clippers kept talking about wanting to get their trip started on the right note, and the comeback win certainly will make the flight to New York easier. The win also allowed the Clippers to keep the best record in the Pacific Division and the No. 4 seed in the West.
Hits: J.J. Redick hasn't missed a beat since missing six weeks because of a hand injury. He had 33 points, five assists and three rebounds and was a big reason the Clippers were able to take a 12-point lead in the first half. Blake Griffin added his usual 23 points and was 13-of-16 from the free-throw line.
Misses: The defense was obviously a major miss but so was the depth. Rivers leaned on only Matt Barnes and Jamal Crawford off the bench. Darius Morris, who played just six minutes and scored two points, was the only other player to get on the court.
Stat of the game: 127 points. The Clippers almost gave up 100 points by the end of the third quarter and gave up 127 in the game, the most they've given up this season. It was a defensive effort reminiscent of the first month of the season, not the last month when they've been one of the best defensive teams in the league.
Up next: The Clippers will now hit the road for a 12-day, seven-game trip that will take them to New York, Indiana, Detroit, Charlotte, Chicago, Toronto and Milwaukee. The Clippers will open things Friday night at Madison Square Garden against the Knicks, who had won five straight before losing to Charlotte on Tuesday.