Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers has been around the league long enough to know that games toward the end of the season against below-.500 teams are far from locks for teams with championship aspirations.
The combination of a lesser team approaching the contest like a playoff game and a superior team looking ahead to the actual playoffs can be an easy recipe for an upset.
“It’s human nature,” Rivers said.
For the majority of Friday’s game against the Utah Jazz, it looked as if the Clippers would fall victim to human nature and an upset. But they woke up late in the third quarter to record their season-high and current league-leading 10th straight game, defeating the Jazz 96-87.
How it happened: The Jazz jumped out to a 13-point lead in the first quarter and led by double digits for most of the first half. It wasn’t until the end of the third quarter that the Clippers finally made their move and took their first lead of the game. The Clippers closed out the quarter on a 17-2 run and took a five-point lead into the final period. The Clippers went up by as many as 11 points in the fourth quarter and held on.
What it means: The Clippers have won a season-high 10 straight games, the longest active winning streak in the league. They also took a five-game lead over the Golden State Warriors in the Pacific Division. The Clippers also hold a two-game lead, which is really three with the tiebreaker, over the Houston Rockets for the third seed. The Clippers are just three games back of the top seed in the West and two games back of the No. 2 seed.
Hits: Blake Griffin had 20 points and has now scored at least 20 points in a franchise-record 25 straight games, which is the second longest streak in the NBA this season. Chris Paul had 18 points and seven assists and played through a sprained left ankle that he suffered in the second half. Matt Barnes had 15 points and Darren Collison added 14 points.
Misses: After his best game as a Clipper on Wednesday, Danny Granger had his worst on Friday, finishing without scoring on 0-for-4 shooting in 17 minutes off the bench.
Stat of the game: The Clippers had 31 fast-break points -- compared to 10 for the Jazz -- and outscored the Jazz 53-36 in the second half.
Up next: The Clippers will get Saturday off before playing the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday at Staples Center. The Cavaliers are just 25-40 this season. But one of their biggest wins came earlier this season when they beat the Clippers 88-82 in Ohio. Sunday will be the second and final meeting of the season between the teams as the Clippers try to win their 11th straight.