And then the second half started.
First, Blake Griffin made a 17-foot jumper. Then Jared Dudley hit a 19-foot shot. On the next possession, Dudley nailed a 3-pointer in the right corner. Soon, the Clippers’ lead ballooned to 21 points. By the time the third-quarter onslaught was over, the Clippers had scored 32 points on 61 percent shooting, extending their lead to 16.
The 76ers made a late rally in the fourth, cutting the lead to as few as seven points, but Griffin and Chris Paul sealed the victory with clutch baskets down the stretch and two key defensive plays -- a charge and a blocked shot -- by Griffin. When the buzzer sounded, the Clippers walked away with a 94-83 win to bring their disappointing record on the seven-game road trip to 2-2.
Their third-quarter performance notwithstanding, the Clippers’ offense has been cause for concern recently -- especially from deep. For the fifth time in their past six games, L.A. failed to shoot better than 30 percent from beyond the arc, going just 5 of 27 on 3-pointers (18.5 percent) against the 28th-ranked 76ers defense.
The Clippers’ defensive effort was encouraging -- it was the third straight game they held an opponent to less than 40 percent shooting -- but until they can figure out a way to consistently produce on both sides of the floor, expect their roller-coaster results to continue. The injuries certainly don’t help matters, of course. Perhaps Paul said it best after the team's 88-82 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday: “We’re consistently inconsistent right now.”
How it happened: The Clippers cranked up the pace early, pushing the ball in transition regardless of whether the 76ers made or missed. They couldn’t buy a basket in the first half (they shot just 35.6 percent), but their third-quarter barrage gave them enough cushion to withstand the 76ers’ late run. The Clippers didn’t shoot well overall (42.7 percent), but they overcame that by holding Philadelphia to just 35.9 percent shooting.
What it means: Facing the 25th-best offense and 28th-best defense -- the 76ers’ offensive and defensive ratings heading into Monday night’s game -- can do wonders for a struggling ball club, so the Clippers shouldn’t pat themselves on the back just yet.
While the road trip is far from ideal so far, the Clippers can at least take solace in the fact that their next three opponents (Boston, Brooklyn, Washington) have a 25-37 combined record. With the signing of veteran swingman Stephen Jackson reportedly on the horizon, L.A.’s depleted wing crop could benefit from the additional size and 3-point shooting.
Hits: Griffin bounced back from his season-low 10 points against the Cavaliers, scoring 26 points on 9-of-14 shooting and blocking three shots.
Paul had 25 points and 13 assists. DeAndre Jordan added 11 points and 21 rebounds.
The Clippers held the 76ers to a season-low 83 points, including a season-low 36 points in the first half.
Misses: The Clippers almost blew their lead in the fourth, in large part due to their six turnovers. They had only six throughout the first three quarters.
Jared Dudley and Willie Green combined to shoot 2-of-14 (14.3 percent) on 3s.
Stat of the game: 14.3 percent. The Clippers may not have shot well from deep, but they forced the 76ers into 3-of-21 shooting from there.
Up next: The Clippers have Tuesday off before facing the Boston Celtics on Wednesday, which marks Doc Rivers’ emotional and long-awaited return to Beantown. The reunion continues on Thursday, as the Clippers travel north to face the Brooklyn Nets and, most likely, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce for the first time.