Kawhi Leonard, Clippers’ blue-collar culture look like perfect fit, intentional or not

“Not really with all that extra (stuff).

“We’re here to get better, we’re here to win games, we’re not here to put on a show …

“Come in here, get your work done, (kick butt) and take names.”

Is that A) a description of Kawhi Leonard’s approach to basketball?

Or B) someone describing the current culture in the Clippers’ camp?

Technically, B. That’s Patrick Beverley speaking at the end of the Clippers’ run this season, when his surprising squad reached the playoffs and pushed the two-time defending champion Golden State Warriors to six games in the opening round.

So, sure, the NBA issued a clear knock it off when it fined the Clippers $50,000 and called tampering on Coach Doc Rivers’ for his comments on ESPN comparing Leonard, the Toronto Raptors star and soon-to-be free agent, with Michael Jordan.

There are other ways for a team to send a message.

With or without Leonard in mind, the Clippers have compiled a no-nonsense collection of workers and competitors, a group that might align nicely with the newly minted Finals MVP whom they reportedly hope to persuade to return to his Southern California roots when free agency begins June 30.

This past season, the Clippers’ buy-in to the work-hard, kick-butt approach that Beverley described had a lot to do with the camaraderie that led to the team’s success. Now it could, conceivably, pay off this offseason.

“You have to understand who are the type of people you want in your program,” Lawrence Frank, the Clippers’ president of basketball operations, said during the playoffs. “Usually, like-minded people – they may have different personalities, you may have some who are more extroverted and some introverted, and some that react to different things – at their core, like to be around similarly focused people.

“So, high-character, competitive, tough, and over-yourself and into-the-team guys, usually they’re attracted to each other,” he continued. “And when you blend those personalities with an elite coach, you know, special things can happen.”

Leonard’s reputation is that of a low-maintenance, basketball-obsessed workaholic. As of 2016, he was driving the same ’97 Chevy Tahoe he piloted around the Inland Empire in high school, according to reporting by Lee Jenkins, the Sports Illustrated scribe since turned Clippers’ executive director of research and identity.

In a recent piece posted by “The Athletic,” Leonard’s former San Diego State teammates shared stories about the quiet, long-limbed forward beating everyone to the gym, outlasting them there and then, in off-hours, breaking into the place to shoot by lamplight.

In San Antonio, he maintained his rep as the guy staying so late refining his 3-pointer, his post moves, his jab-step, his jump hook, all those now-familiar weapons, that Gregg Popovich reportedly had to tell his assistant coaches to chase Leonard out of the gym.

In 2015, Leonard signed a five-year, $95 million contract with the San Antonio Spurs in an apartment complex conference room, in gym clothes because he was between the second of three shooting drills that summer day.

“My motivation wasn’t really to get a $95 million contract, you know?” Leonard told the San Diego Union-Tribune soon after. “I’m not out here just for the money. I want to be a great player. I don’t feel anything changed. I already had money and security. You definitely see a difference in some guys’ games when they do get paid. I’m trying to make sure I’m not that player.”

Leonard, a three-time All-Star, is now a two-time NBA champion after the Raptors held off the Warriors in Game 6 of the NBA Finals on Thursday night in Oakland. Leonard, who joined LeBron James and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the only players in league history to win Finals MVP awards for two different franchises, averaged 30.5 points on 49 percent shooting this postseason for the Raptors. He also contributed 9.1 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.7 steals per game (while remaining non-committal about his future) as he led Toronto to its first Finals appearance in his first season with the team.

So, sure, that’s excellent, but don’t expect Leonard even to consider taking his foot off the gas.

“All I want to do is get better,” he said in a 2015 NBA.com story. “I love to play this game. It’s all that I ever really wanted to do and now that I’m doing it in the NBA, I want to be as good as possible.”

The Clippers also have such single-minded basketball devotees, including point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, a rookie starter this season who too has to be forced off the floor on occasion.

“He just is basketball,” Natalie Nakase, a Clippers player development coach, said of Gilgeous-Alexander last season. “I remember working with him in the summer at a camp and we would have to kick him off, like, ‘Shai, we gotta go home.’ ‘Yeah, but one more!’ And then 15 minutes more, I’m like, ‘Shai we gotta go. We gotta take the shoes off.’ ”

Landry Shamet, another rookie guard, is so serious about putting in the work, he’s adopted a “Never Cheated” motto that adorns his cell phone’s lock screen, as well as a matching T-shirt line.

“The ‘Never Cheated’ mantra of mine, over the past couple years it’s something I feel like I’ve always been one to hold myself accountable and do the right thing, and not cut corners and cheat,” said Shamet, who has joined Gilgeous-Alexander and Beverley, among a handful of others working on their games at the Clippers’ training facility in recent days.

“If you control what you can control and do the right thing all the time, you can expect good things to come to you in return.”

You can sense Beverley, a free agent whose blazing competitiveness set the tenor for the Clippers’ organization, nodding his approval.

“We got one agenda, and that’s to win a basketball game,” Beverley explained at season’s end. “It’s not to chase stats, it’s not who’s Batman or Robin. We’re here to win basketball games and that was the most important goal this year.

“Hopefully,” he added, “we changed the culture of the NBA. It’s OK to be high-maintenance and everything, but that doesn’t mean you have to be. You can be a blue-collar worker and still be successful, and hopefully Shai and (Jerome Robinson) and Landry and (Ivica Zubac), they saw.”

Perhaps someone else saw too?

“The culture is right,” Rivers said during his exit interview with reporters in April. “We know that we’re not going to have the exact team that we had last year, but we also know that we can change our team and still have the right culture and the same culture.

“We’re going to make the right choice, too,” Rivers added. “We’re not just going to spend money. Obviously, there’s a lot of guys out there. If we get the ones we want, we’ll use it. If not, we’ll just keep building away.”

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Whicker: Clippers ride a long way on effort, but next year will require something more

LOS ANGELES — Rarely has a team basked in such love because it did its job.

You wonder if it says more about the Clippers, who swam upstream to win 48 games and made Golden State break a furious sweat in the first round, or the NBA, where “effort” and “energy” are praised profusely because they’re not always seen.

The Clippers started strongly against Golden State and then wilted under the relentless raindrops of Kevin Durant and the human smorgasbord that is Draymond Green. The Warriors won Game 6, 129-110, and the series, 4-2, and they open Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals against Houston on Sunday afternoon.

“I love their team,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said, not for the first time. “That’s just a beautiful basketball team. There were times when we thought we had them and we didn’t have them. They brought out our best.”

The past four Warriors teams have gotten to the NBA Finals and three of them won championships. Their first-round opponents had two wins in those four years. The Clippers duplicated that in this series. So, there’s that.

But Durant ended any miracle talk with 50 points on Friday, and all of them seemed to either extend a Warriors’ spree or stop whatever the Clippers were mustering.

“I promise we tried,” Clippers sixth man Lou Williams said. “Sometimes you just come across special people.”

The Warriors thus sent play-by-play man Ralph Lawler to his retirement home in Bend, Ore., by honoring the 100-point Lawler’s Law. The most irreplaceable member of the Clippers’ organization laughed at halftime when someone asked him if Durant was trying to validate the Law by himself.

All Durant was doing was demonstrating the Second Law. Talent wins.

Championships are won in June but arranged in July. The Clippers have a lot of money for free agents, for guys who can yawn, stretch their legs and get 50. A lot of teams have money, but if nothing else is in place, the money’s no good. At the very least, the Clippers have shown the Durants and Kawhi Leonards that they have an identifiable way of playing, a group of players more talented than anyone thinks, and none of the avoidable chaos that has consumed the Lakers. If you want to come to L.A., as many people who have full-time drivers want to do, this would seem to be the team.

That, more than finishing eighth and keeping Sacramento out of the playoffs, is what the Clippers accomplished.

Players came to the Clippers and got better, by the month in some cases. Take Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the 11th pick in last year’s draft.

He was the only “plus” player among the first eight Clippers, if you like that stat, and he got 22 points with six assists. As the Clippers seized a 10-point first quarter lead, Gilgeous-Alexander was the main driver, literally.  They needed another epicurean night from Lou Williams, but the Warriors trapped him immediately and watched him miss 18 of 21 shots. The growth plate of this team is Gilgeous-Alexander.

“There are so many things I learned this year I can’t even think of them all,” he said. “In a series like this, you learn about focus. Every possession means so much. You learn how to see the game. Doc (coach Rivers) told us before the season that we’d have to play hard every night to be successful, and we all bought into it.

“There are so many things this summer I want to focus on. I think I’m going to come back with a better shot. Right now I haven’t figured out exactly what I’ll be doing. I didn’t plan on going home this early.”

Nearby in the locker room, Landry Shamet was also dealing with the brick wall of elimination. He was finishing his rookie year, too, one that will always be identified with his winning shot in Game 2’s record-setting comeback. He and Gilgeous-Alexander will be the sophomore backcourt next season, depending on the supermax newcomers.

“I knew Shai was a good player,” Shamet said. “I’m excited that I get to grow with him. We weren’t even together for half the season (after Shamet was acquired in the trade that sent Tobias Harris to Philadelphia).

“He always was a well-rounded guy with a good feel. He’s a very balanced point guard. He’s not a pass-first or shoot-first point guard. He’s unselfish, yet he’s aggressive. He knows when to score, yet he knows how to get other guys involved. He’s just a solid player. His growth even the last couple of months has been incredible, fun to watch.”

Gilgeous-Alexander also is 6-foot-6 and does not turn 21 until July 12.

There is also plenty in reserve. Rivers shelved Ivica Zubac in this series, for the most part, but this is a guy who went 9 for 10 at Golden State on Christmas Night, in his Lakers days.

“These six games honestly felt like two months in terms of all the adjustments and the emotional roller coaster,” said Warriors point guard Steph Curry, a two-time league MVP. “It tested us. They played amazing.”

No league pigeonholes its teams like the NBA, and its intelligentsia does. The Clippers’ gift to us this season was unpredictability.

Like most gifts, it shouldn’t be given in back-to-back years.

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Whicker: Warriors’ defense looks familiar, and strong, with Andrew Bogut

LOS ANGELES — Which two quarters don’t go with the other 10?

Take Game 1 and Game 3 and the first half of Game 2, and Golden State is outscoring the Clippers by 67 points.

Only the second half of Monday’s Game 2, a trick of light and shadows, has saved this first-round series from the brink of Cancun, and other NBA vacationlands.

The Warriors seized a 31-point lead in Game’2, embossing themselves in the embarrassment section of the playoff record books. They got to a 31-point lead in the third quarter in Game 3 here Thursday, and assistant coach Jarron Collins helpfully reminded head coach Steve Kerr.

The eclipse did not repeat. Golden State went on to nail down a 132-105 victory over two-and-a-half hours. About 90 minutes of that were pointless. The Warriors had flashed their championship ID in a 40-point second quarter.

And the Clippers basically faded into the scenery. Their starting lineup scored 46 points, Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell weren’t allowed to put the game on fast-forward in the second quarter, and Danilo Gallinari was a nightmarish 2 for 13 from the field. The Warriors slapped big double-teams on Gallinari most times when he got the ball in the first quarter. Then they switched carefully on Williams and allowed him few of their lane drives, and he went 1 for 3 from the 3-point line.

“We didn’t really play for each other tonight,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “We got behind and everybody was trying to win the game for himself, and that isn’t the way we play.”

For all the Clippers’ good works and righteous observance of the way the game needs to be played, they did not have good fortune with the No. 8 seed and a date with a Hall of Fame lineup.

“We got our ass kicked,” Williams said. “They willed themselves to play defense tonight, and then on the other end they can make crazy shots. That can be discouraging. They were cooking on all cylinders on both ends.”

Although Kevin Durant got physical and mental revenge on Patrick Beverley with a 38-point night, this was an old-time Warriors victory, from the days before Durant arrived. Part of that is Andrew Bogut, the criminally underrated center during Golden State’s first two title seasons.

Bogut spent most of this season back in Australia, with the Sydney Kings in the National Basketball League. He signed a two-year contract, and his coach, Andrew Gaze, called it the most important signing in league history. At the time, Bogut pledged that he would spend both years in Sydney, with “no NBA outs,” but then he blossomed into the league’s MVP. When Golden State came calling, the Kings did not stand in his way.

“I think he’s in a very good place right now,” Kerr said.

Bogut was in several good places in Game 2. He got 14 rebounds and put up a good argument whenever Harrell, Ivica Zubac and other “bigs” reached the lane. His passing and screen-setting were a prime ingredient in the Warriors’ success in 2015 and 2016. Granted, this team won an NBA championship with Zaza Pachulia starting 57 games in the post, and it will run into playoff nights when it wishes it still had DeMarcus Cousins, who injured a quad and is out for the year.

But the Warriors and Bogut have a mutual comfort society. Andre Iguodala also looked several years younger on this night, and it all served to remind us that Golden State is, at heart, a defensive team.

“I’m probably more appreciative of everything this time around,” Bogut said. “I know what my role is with this team, and the system really hasn’t changed that much. I’m supposed to be a presence in the lane, talk on defense, rebound and make good decisions.”

“He’s been a godsend,” Kerr said.

All of Golden State’s lineups were effective, and Steph Curry poured in 21 points in 20 foul-truncated minutes. But the Clippers had no idea how to get over or around the Warriors when they went jumbo: Bogut, Iguodala, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and Alfonzo McKinnie.

“They were by far more physical than us,” Rivers said. “Their defense was a lot better than our offense. We got some shots, but not a lot of good ones.”

And Williams was irked that the Clippers let Durant go on his 14-for-23 spree even though Durant had basically promised he would respond to Beverley’s Game 2 provocations.

“He announced himself before we got here, and we either weren’t prepared or we didn’t get the job done,” Williams said. “On the other side of that coin, he’s Kevin Durant and he’s capable of making those shots.”

They do it again on Sunday afternoon.

“If we win that one, we’re tied in the series,” Rivers said. “Thank God it’s not college.”

He is also thankful that a playoff series isn’t conducted on the quarter system.

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Clippers hang on to beat Jazz in OT on Ralph Lawler Night, will face Warriors in first-round series

  • The Clippers’ Danilo Gallinari reacts to indicate he didn’t touch the ball after it went out of bounds during the first half of Wednesday’s game against the Utah Jazz at Staples Center. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – APRIL 10: Doc Rivers of the LA Clippers reacts to a call during the game against the Utah Jazz at Staples Center on April 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.

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  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – APRIL 10: Wilson Chandler #22 of the LA Clippers steals the ball from Thabo Sefolosha #22 of the Utah Jazz during the first half at Staples Center on April 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – APRIL 10: JaMychal Green #4 of the LA Clippers is fouled on his layup by Tyler Cavanaugh #34 of the Utah Jazz during the first half at Staples Center on April 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – APRIL 10: Landry Shamet #20 of the LA Clippers scores past Georges Niang #31 of the Utah Jazz during the first half at Staples Center on April 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – APRIL 10: Patrick Beverley #21 of the LA Clippers passes to Ivica Zubac #40 during the first half against the Utah Jazz at Staples Center on April 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – APRIL 10: Ivica Zubac #40 of the LA Clippers dunks past Joe Ingles #2 of the Utah Jazz during the first half at Staples Center on April 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.

  • Utah Jazz forward Royce O’Neale, center shoots as Los Angeles Clippers center Ivica Zubac, left, and guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander defend during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 10, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Utah Jazz center Tony Bradley, right, shoots as Los Angeles Clippers forward Montrezl Harrell defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 10, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Utah Jazz guard Grayson Allen, left, shoots as Los Angeles Clippers center Ivica Zubac defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 10, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Clippers guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, right, shoots as Utah Jazz center Ekpe Udoh, left, defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 10, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Clippers forward Montrezl Harrell shoots as Utah Jazz forward Tyler Cavanaugh defends during the first half of Wednesday’s game at Staples Center. Harrell had 24 points, seven rebounds and five assists in a 143-137 overtime victory. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Clippers guard Landry Shamet, left, shoots as Utah Jazz forward Georges Niang defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 10, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – APRIL 10: Grayson Allen #24 of the Utah Jazz dribbles past Wilson Chandler #22 of the LA Clippers during a 143-137 Clippers win at Staples Center on April 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.

  • Utah Jazz forward Thabo Sefolosha, right, makes a no-look pass as Los Angeles Clippers guard Garrett Temple defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 10, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – APRIL 10: Wilson Chandler #22 of the LA Clippers wears jerseys in honor of LA Clippers broadcaster Ralph Lawler, who has been the voice of the Clippers for 40 years and will retire at the end of the season before the game against the Utah Jazz at Staples Center on April 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.

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LOS ANGELES — Oh me, oh my, the Clippers once again upheld “Lawler’s Law” as their regular season ended with a high-scoring overtime win, 143-137 over the Utah Jazz, on Ralph Lawler Night at Staples Center.

Before the Clippers – who will meet No. 1-seeded Golden State in the opening round of the playoffs starting Saturday – posted a season-high scoring total Wednesday, Coach Doc Rivers said he didn’t plan yet to begin dwelling on his team’s feats so far this season. Generally predicted to win 35 games or fewer, the Clippers exceeded expectations, finishing 48-34.

But when it came up, he allowed himself a moment of preliminary reflection.

“This team is extraordinary,” Rivers said. “The things that I have heard that I didn’t know about this team, to win this amount of games with no current or (past) All-Stars, only happened four times in history? That kind of stuff’s nuts.

“Having said that,” he added, “I actually think we do have a couple of All-Stars on our team. Lou (Williams), you can make a case as an All-Star and Gal (Danilo Gallinari) as well, so we’re more talented than people believe we are.”

Starting Saturday, first-round expectations will be low for Rivers’ team and its couple of could-be All-Stars when they face Steve Kerr’s constellation of them.

Victories earlier Wednesday by San Antonio and Oklahoma City told the Clippers of their playoff destination before their game began: They get the two-time defending champion Golden State Warriors. Game 1 is Saturday at 5 p.m. in Oakland, with Game 2 scheduled for Monday at 7:30 p.m. The best-of-seven series shifts to Staples Center for Game 3 on Thursday (April 18) at 7:30 p.m., with Game 4 scheduled for Easter Sunday (April 21) at 12:30 p.m.

“We have nothing to lose, the pressure’s on them, of course,” said Patrick Beverley, who returned after missing three consecutive games with a hip pointer and made his presence felt with 14 points, six assists and six rebounds in 21 minutes.

“Of course we come in as an underrated team all year, and we’re gonna be underrated in the playoffs,” he added. “We respect them of course … but we’re gonna play our brand of basketball and have fun.”

The Clippers beat Golden State in overtime the first time the teams met.

But they lost all three games thereafter, including handily last weekend in Oakland, where the Clippers played without three of their key contributors.

Everyone on the active roster played Wednesday as the Clippers shook off Sunday’s 131-104 defeat – and their three-game late-season slide – against the Jazz.

In honor of the longtime broadcaster’s final regular-season game before he retires after this, his 40th season, fans Wednesday were encouraged to hoist “Bingo!” placards whenever the Clippers made a 3-pointer.

The Clippers gave them 12 opportunities to call out one of Lawler’s popular catchphrases as the home team struggled to put away a severely short-handed Utah team, which entered the game locked into the fifth seed and played 10 players and gave rookie Grayson Allen his second start, in which he scored a career-high 40 points.

He helped the Jazz erase a 17-point deficit and took a 124-123 lead with a little more than a minute left before it went to overtime tied at 124.

In the extra period, a pair of dunks by Ivica Zubac (his 22 points to go with 11 rebounds marked his fourth career game with 20-plus points and third as a Clipper) bookended a Jazz turnover and miss to give the Clippers a 132-128 lead with 3:22 to go.

Then Jerome Robinson scored six consecutive points for the Clippers, Zubac blocked a shot and JaMychal Green hit the dagger from deep to make it 141-131 with 55 seconds to go.

Off the bench, Montrezl Harrell finished with a team-high 24 points for his 29th game this season with at least 20 points.

Afterward, he wasn’t much in the mood to dwell on regular-season successes, either. Not really.

“We played the whole regular season to get where we are now — in the playoffs,” Harrell said. “So you sitting back reflecting on the accomplishments we did, is gonna do what? It’s not gonna help us get in the playoffs.

“We made some great accomplishments in the season, proved a lot of people wrong, doubters that said we wouldn’t be here. That’s all cool and stuff, but like I tell people, that’s stuff that y’all (media) put on us, that we weren’t gonna be this good, thats what y’all did.

“But we didn’t care, we played with the people we knew we had in the locker room, and we just went out and competed, and that’s what were gonna do in the playoffs.”

And here is the Warriors-Clippers first-round schedule https://t.co/HAoUQMoANY pic.twitter.com/IekjFmyV8v

— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) April 11, 2019

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Whicker: With a 13-2 record in March, Clippers aren’t doing it on intangibles alone

  • Memphis Grizzlies center Jonas Valanciunas, right, shoots as Los Angeles Clippers center Ivica Zubac defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, March 31, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Memphis Grizzlies forward Chandler Parsons, left, shoots as Los Angeles Clippers guard Garrett Temple defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, March 31, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

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  • Los Angeles Clippers forward Montrezl Harrell, center, is fouled while shooting by Memphis Grizzlies forward Bruno Caboclo, left, as forward Chandler Parsons defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, March 31, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Members of the Los Angeles Clippers celebrate from the bench after center Ivica Zubac dunked during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Memphis Grizzlies, Sunday, March 31, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Clippers forward Danilo Gallinari, center, shoots as Memphis Grizzlies forward Justin Holiday, left, and forward Bruno Caboclo defend during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, March 31, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Clippers guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, right, passes as Memphis Grizzlies guard Tyler Dorsey defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, March 31, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Memphis Grizzlies guard Tyler Dorsey, left, shoots as Los Angeles Clippers center Ivica Zubac defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, March 31, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Clippers guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, left, shoots as Memphis Grizzlies forward Bruno Caboclo defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, March 31, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Clippers forward Montrezl Harrell grimaces after drawing a foul during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Memphis Grizzlies, Sunday, March 31, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Memphis Grizzlies forward Bruno Caboclo, right, shoots as Los Angeles Clippers forward JaMychal Green defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, March 31, 2019, in Los Angeles. The Clippers won 113-96. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Memphis Grizzlies guard Delon Wright, right, grabs a rebound away from Los Angeles Clippers forward Danilo Gallinari during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, March 31, 2019, in Los Angeles. The Clippers won 113-96. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Memphis Grizzlies forward Bruno Caboclo, right, shoots as Los Angeles Clippers forward Montrezl Harrell defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, March 31, 2019, in Los Angeles. The Clippers won 113-96. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Clippers guard Patrick Beverley, right, offers to help up Memphis Grizzlies center Jonas Valanciunas after Valanciunas was hurt during a play during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, March 31, 2019, in Los Angeles. The Clippers won 113-96. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Clippers forward Montrezl Harrell, right, shoots as Memphis Grizzlies forward Bruno Caboclo defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, March 31, 2019, in Los Angeles. The Clippers won 113-96. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

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LOS ANGELES — J.B. Bickerstaff, the Memphis coach, offered a novel analysis of the Clippers’ stormy surge.

He acknowledges the one-for-all nature of what they’re doing. But he also thinks talent has something to do with it.

“When you have the skill level and the talent level that they have, and then the willingness to be part of something bigger than themselves, you see the success you can have,” Bickerstaff said after his depleted Grizzlies were trounced Sunday night, 113-96, by a Clippers team that was a league-best 13-2 in March.

Someone mentioned the star-driven ways of the NBA and how an ensemble like the Clippers usually can’t expect to circumvent a great player or two.

“Yeah, but it’s a high-level ensemble,”  Bickerstaff said. “(Danilo) Gallinari is a heck of a player. Montrezl Harrell, the way he’s playing, Lou-Will (Williams), you can go on and on. They didn’t just throw a bunch of guys together in the locker room. They went out and got some talented players, but it still comes down to the way they’ve bought in. Nobody is uncomfortable in his role.”

The Clippers are 47-31 and are in a percentage-points tie with Utah for fifth in the West. If they win three of their four closing games, they’ll get to 50 wins for the sixth time in the past seven seasons.

This was not considered likely, particularly after the Clippers dealt Tobias Harris to Philadelphia Feb. 6. They are 17-6 since then.

“I think it’s a case of us having stars but maybe people not recognizing them as stars,” Tyrone Wallace said. ‘Gallo is a star, Lou is definitely a star. I think the reason we’ve come together as a team is that we don’t have hidden agendas, that there’s no ulterior motives when guys go out on the court. We’re all playing for each other. We’re happy when we see somebody doing good.”

Harrell (1.53) and Gallinari (1.52) are ranked fifth and sixth in the NBA in points per field goal attempt.

“Efficiency matters,” said coach Doc Rivers, whose team shoots 313 fewer 3-pointers than its opposition but makes 38.9 percent. “This is how we score. If we get 130 points I don’t care if we get there on ‘ones,’ let alone threes.”

The Clippers manage to get there. Against Memphis, Gallinari got 27 points, 15 rebounds and five assists, and got to the foul line 16 times. Harrell, Williams and JaMychal Green brought 52 points off the bench and shot 16 for 29.

About the only thing that irked Rivers was the failure of rookie Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to get an assist in the first half. But SGA got three in the second half and had four steals for the game, which featured such temps as Dusty Hannahs, Yuha Watanabe and Julian Washburn logging significant minutes for the Grizzlies (31-45).

Rivers again voiced no preference for a playoff opponent.

“I don’t think the top four teams are looking at the bottom of the conference and saying, ‘I wish we could play this or that team,’’’ he said. “I think they’re all tough. Maybe Golden State is looking at 15 teams (counting the Eastern Conference) and saying that, but I don’t think any of those teams are scared to play them.”

“In the playoffs you have teams saying they want to take away this or that guy,” Wallace said. “I think they’ll be looking to take away Gal or Lou. But if they do, we have a lot of guys who can make up for that.”

The Clippers are scoring 117.3 points a game since the Harris trade, second only to Milwaukee, and they’re getting to the foul line 28.6 times a game, which leads the league.

They have Houston and the Lakers before they go to Golden State on Saturday, and then they end the regular season April 10 here against Utah. Instead of elbowing their way into their picture, they’re lining up for position.

“You go right into the playoffs now,” Rivers said. “You don’t wait a week. You need to go in hot.”

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Clippers don’t have the energy to keep up with CJ McCollum, Blazers late

  • Los Angeles Clippers’ Ivica Zubac, left, goes to basket as Portland Trail Blazers’ Jusuf Nurkic defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, March 12, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

  • Los Angeles Clippers’ Ivica Zubac, right, blocks a shot by Portland Trail Blazers’ Damian Lillard during the first half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, March 12, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

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  • Los Angeles Clippers’ Patrick Beverley, front, defends against Portland Trail Blazers’ Jusuf Nurkic during the first half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, March 12, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

  • Portland Trail Blazers’ Al-Farouq Aminu, left, and Los Angeles Clippers’ Ivica Zubac compete for a rebound during the first half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, March 12, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

  • Portland Trail Blazers’ Damian Lillard, left, drives against Los Angeles Clippers’ Ivica Zubac during the first half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, March 12, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

  • Portland Trail Blazers’ Jusuf Nurkic, left, goes to basket and is fouled by Los Angeles Clippers’ Ivica Zubac during the first half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, March 12, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

  • Los Angeles Clippers’ Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, left, goes to basket as Portland Trail Blazers’ Maurice Harkless defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, March 12, 2019, in Los Angeles. The Trail Blazers won 125-104. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

  • Portland Trail Blazers’ Jake Layman goes to basket while defended by Los Angeles Clippers’ Lou Williams during the first half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, March 12, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

  • Portland Trail Blazers’ Jusuf Nurkic, left, goes to basket while defended by Los Angeles Clippers’ Shai Gilgeous-Alexander during the first half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, March 12, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

  • Los Angeles Clippers’ Lou Williams, center, goes to basket between Portland Trail Blazers’ CJ McCollum, left, and Enes Kanter during the second half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, March 12, 2019, in Los Angeles. The Trail Blazers won 125-104. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

  • Portland Trail Blazers’ Enes Kanter reacts after taking an elbow during the first half of the team’s NBA basketball game against Los Angeles Clippers, Tuesday, March 12, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

  • Portland Trail Blazers’ Jusuf Nurkic shoots against Los Angeles Clippers during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Tuesday, March 12, 2019, in Los Angeles. The Trail Blazers won 125-104. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

  • Los Angeles Clippers’ Montrezl Harrell, front, is fouled by Portland Trail Blazers’ CJ McCollum during the second half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, March 12, 2019, in Los Angeles. The Trail Blazers won 125-104. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

  • Los Angeles Clippers’ Montrezl Harrell, left, is defended by Portland Trail Blazers’ Jusuf Nurkic during the second half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, March 12, 2019, in Los Angeles. The Trail Blazers won 125-104. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

  • Los Angeles Clippers’ Montrezl Harrell, yells after making a basket against the Portland Trail Blazers during the second half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, March 12, 2019, in Los Angeles. The Trail Blazers won 125-104. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

  • Portland Trail Blazers’ CJ McCollum (3) talks to his teammate Damian Lillard (0) during an NBA basketball game between Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers, Tuesday, March 12, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

  • Portland Trail Blazers’ CJ McCollum (3) dribbles during an NBA basketball game between Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers, Tuesday, March 12, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

  • Portland Trail Blazers’ CJ McCollum (3) shoots during an NBA basketball game between Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers, Tuesday, March 12, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

  • Players on the Portland Trail Blazers’ bench celebrate a basket against the Los Angeles Clippers during the second half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, March 12, 2019, in Los Angeles. The Trail Blazers won 125-104. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

  • Los Angeles Clippers’ Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) shoots over Portland Trail Blazers’ Damian Lillard (0) during an NBA basketball game between Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers, Tuesday, March 12, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

  • Los Angeles Clippers’ Lou Williams (23) passes the ball under pressured by Portland Trail Blazers’ Damian Lillard (0) and CJ McCollum (3) during an NBA basketball game between Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers, Tuesday, March 12, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

  • Los Angeles Clippers’ Wilson Chandler (22) drives during an NBA basketball game between Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers, Tuesday, March 12, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

  • Los Angeles Clippers’ Landry Shamet (20) shoots over Portland Trail Blazers’ CJ McCollum (3) during an NBA basketball game between Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers, Tuesday, March 12, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

  • Los Angeles Clippers head coach Doc Rivers in an NBA basketball game between Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers, Tuesday, March 12, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

  • Portland Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts in an NBA basketball game between Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers, Tuesday, March 12, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

  • Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer in an NBA basketball game between Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers, Tuesday, March 12, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

  • Portland Trail Blazers’ Enes Kanter (00) drives against Los Angeles Clippers’ Montrezl Harrell (5) during an NBA basketball game between Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers, Tuesday, March 12, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

  • Los Angeles Clippers’ Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) passes the ball to teammate Montrezl Harrell (5) under pressured by Portland Trail Blazers’ CJ McCollum (3) and Enes Kanter (00) during an NBA basketball game between Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers, Tuesday, March 12, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

  • Los Angeles Clippers head coach Doc Rivers in an NBA basketball game between Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers, Tuesday, March 12, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

  • Portland Trail Blazers’ Evan Turner (1) is defended by Los Angeles Clippers’ Lou Williams (23) during an NBA basketball game between Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers, Tuesday, March 12, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

  • Los Angeles Clippers’ Patrick Beverley (21) defends against Portland Trail Blazers’ CJ McCollum (3) during an NBA basketball game between Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers, Tuesday, March 12, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

  • Portland Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts in an NBA basketball game between Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers, Tuesday, March 12, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

  • Los Angeles Clippers’ Ivica Zubac (40) shoots over Portland Trail Blazers’ Jusuf Nurkic (27) during an NBA basketball game between Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers, Tuesday, March 12, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

  • Portland Trail Blazers’ Enes Kanter (00) reacts a call during an NBA basketball game between Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers, Tuesday, March 12, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

  • Los Angeles Clippers’ Tyrone Wallace (9) shoots over Portland Trail Blazers’ Enes Kanter (00) during an NBA basketball game between Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers, Tuesday, March 12, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

  • Portland Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts in an NBA basketball game between Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers, Tuesday, March 12, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

  • Portland Trail Blazers’ CJ McCollum (3) during an NBA basketball game between Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers, Tuesday, March 12, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

  • Los Angeles Clippers’ Garrett Temple (17) dribbles during an NBA basketball game between Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers, Tuesday, March 12, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

  • Los Angeles Clippers’ Patrick Beverley (21) drives against Portland Trail Blazers’ Damian Lillard (0) during an NBA basketball game between Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers, Tuesday, March 12, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

  • Los Angeles Clippers’ Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) drives against Portland Trail Blazers’ Maurice Harkless (4) during an NBA basketball game between Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers, Tuesday, March 12, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

  • Los Angeles Clippers’ Patrick Beverley (21) drives against Portland Trail Blazers’ Damian Lillard (0) during an NBA basketball game between Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers, Tuesday, March 12, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

  • Los Angeles Clippers’ Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) drives against Portland Trail Blazers’ Maurice Harkless (4) during an NBA basketball game between Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers, Tuesday, March 12, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

  • Los Angeles Clippers’ Montrezl Harrell (5) celebrates during an NBA basketball game between Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers, Tuesday, March 12, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

  • Los Angeles Clippers’ Montrezl Harrell (5) goes to basket against Portland Trail Blazers’ Enes Kanter (00) during an NBA basketball game between Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers, Tuesday, March 12, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

  • Portland Trail Blazers’ Enes Kanter (00) poses the ball against Los Angeles Clippers’ Montrezl Harrell (5) during an NBA basketball game between Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers, Tuesday, March 12, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

  • Los Angeles Clippers’ Patrick Beverley (21) dribbles during an NBA basketball game between Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers, Tuesday, March 12, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

  • Los Angeles Clippers’ Montrezl Harrell (5), Lou Williams (23) and Wilson Chandler (22) in an NBA basketball game between Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers, Tuesday, March 12, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

  • Portland Trail Blazers’ Jake Layman (10) drives against Los Angeles Clippers’ Lou Williams (23) during an NBA basketball game between Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers, Tuesday, March 12, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

  • Los Angeles Clippers’ Garrett Temple (17) dribbles during an NBA basketball game between Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers, Tuesday, March 12, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

  • Portland Trail Blazers’ Damian Lillard (0) drives against Los Angeles Clippers’ Landry Shamet (20) during an NBA basketball game between Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers, Tuesday, March 12, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

  • Portland Trail Blazers’ Jusuf Nurkic (27) shoots during an NBA basketball game between Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers, Tuesday, March 12, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

  • Portland Trail Blazers’ Damian Lillard (0) drives against Los Angeles Clippers’ Ivica Zubac (40) during an NBA basketball game between Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers, Tuesday, March 12, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

  • Los Angeles Clippers’ Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) drives against Portland Trail Blazers’ CJ McCollum (3) during an NBA basketball game between Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers, Tuesday, March 12, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

  • Los Angeles Clippers’ Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) shoots during an NBA basketball game between Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers, Tuesday, March 12, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

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LOS ANGELES — Gassed and playing without their 19-points-per-game scorer, Danilo Gallinari, the Clippers couldn’t keep up with CJ McCollum or his Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday night, falling 125-104 at Staples Center.

The Blazers (41-26) and their warm-warmer-scalding shooting guard put away the game in the fourth quarter, when they outscored the Clippers 40-20 as McCollum netted 23 of his game-high 35 points.

In so doing, Portland snapped the Clippers’ five-game winning streak and nudged them out of sixth place and into seventh in the Western Conference standings with 13 games left in the regular season.

“We had a chance in the first half to have a 10- to 12-point lead,” said Clippers coach Doc Rivers, whose team entered intermission ahead 52-50. “Once we didn’t have that, I felt like the second half could be rough.”

After missing his first seven shots to start the game, McCollum roughed up the hosts late, especially in the final quarter, when the Blazers broke things open with a 21-5 run.

Portland led 95-94 with 8:50 left before going on a 15-3 spurt that included 13 straight points by McCollum, including three 3-pointers. He hit eight of his nine shots in the fourth, helping the Blazers to an insurmountable 110-97 lead with 5:40 to go.

“What’s it like looking at it? It’s not a good time,” Clippers guard Lou Williams said of the show McCollum put on. “It’s not a good time, but you know, he’s a talented player. He’s done that on numerous occasions.”

McCollum finished 12 for 21 from the field.

Meanwhile, the Clippers felt the effects of games against Oklahoma City, Boston (both wins) and Portland in a five-day span.

“We ran out of gas in the fourth quarter,” said Williams, who finished with 18 points a night after he scored 34 and became the top bench scorer in league history. “Missing Gal hurts, and we’ve had a pretty emotional week with some big wins, used a lot of energy on those games, so I think we just ran out of gas.”

“It was a tough back-to back, for sure,” Rivers said. “But we saw it coming. You looked at the schedule and you saw Oklahoma, Boston, Portland, three in (five) days. Before it, I would’ve taken two of the three. After it, I wanted all three.”

After shooting 61.6 percent from the field and scoring 140 points in a historic victory over the Celtics on Monday, the Clippers (39-30) connected on just 40 percent (38 of 95) of their shots Tuesday.

They missed Gallinari’s typically efficient offensive output.

“It was more rest,” Rivers said of Gallinari’s absence. “He twisted his ankle, but very light, and we just felt like back-to-back, we have two days off, it would be a good time to do it.”

Clippers forward Montrezl Harrell rebounded from his own slow start with a big third quarter, when he went on the attack for 10 points, seven rebounds and three blocked shots to keep the margin close, helping the Clippers trim Portland’s seven-point lead to one entering the final quarter.

He finished with a team-high 22 points (three of which came on just his fourth career basket from beyond the arc) and 11 rebounds, including a career-high eight offensive boards.

“I just wanted to go out and play with the energy I didn’t have in the first half when I let a lot of easy baskets go and I definitely got confused on what the referee was telling me in the defensive post,” Harrell said. “I gave up a lot of easy buckets and that’s nobody’s fault but my own. At the end of the day, I hold myself to a higher standard.”

Ivica Zubac – one of five Clippers to score in double figures with 10 points on 4-of-15 shooting – also established a career high with nine offensive rebounds (15 total).

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who entered the game averaging 18.3 points in three games against Portland, finished with 15 on Tuesday. Landry Shamet added 11.

Damian Lillard (12 assists) and Jusuf Nurkic (12 rebounds) both scored 20 for Portland.

The night after committing 20 turnovers in victory, the Clippers turned the ball over 12 times in defeat.

They led by two at halftime, before which nine Clippers and 10 Blazers scored, with none reaching double figures as neither team shot better than 40 percent by the break.

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Clippers agree to trade Tobias Harris to 76ers, acquire two 1st-round picks in 6-player deal

The surprising Clippers, who are in eighth place in the Western Conference, on Tuesday night agreed to trade leading scorer Tobias Harris to the Philadelphia 76ers in a blockbuster deal, according to a league source.

The Clippers will deal Harris, who made a game-winning shot to cap a comeback win in Charlotte just a few hours before the trade, center Boban Marjanovic and forward Mike Scott to Philadephia in exchange for forwards Wilson Chandler and Mike Muscala, rookie guard Landry Shamet, two first-round picks (one lottery protected) and two second-round picks. Terms of the deal were first reported by ESPN.

The move comes less than 48 hours before the league’s Thursday noon PT trade deadline. The Clippers had not been considered aggressive buyers or sellers in recent days, but they found a championship-hungry partner in the 76ers, who will send them first-round picks in 2020 (lottery protected) and 2021 (unprotected, via Miami). The second-round picks are in 2021 and 2023 (via Detroit), according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

The most coveted piece the Clippers receive is the 2021 first-round pick from Miami, which is currently 25-27, 1½ games ahead of Detroit for the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Barring a major turnaround next season, the Heat’s pick could wind up being a lottery selection.

If the Clippers, who are 30-25, miss the playoffs this season, they will retain their own first-round pick in the upcoming draft, which is lottery protected. If they make the playoffs, that pick transfers to Boston.

It’s the fifth time Harris, 26, has been traded in eight seasons. On the last year of his current contract, the forward is earning $14.8 million and enjoying his best season yet, averaging career highs in points per game (20.9), as well as field-goal percentage (49.6 percent), 3-point percentage (43.3 percent) and free-throw percentage (91.1 percent). He’s also averaging 7.9 rebounds and 2.7 assists.

On Tuesday night, Harris scored 34 points to lead the Clippers back from a 20-point deficit in a 117-115 victory in Charlotte, recording his fourth game this season with 20-plus points, five-plus rebounds and five-plus assists.

Harris declined an $80 million contract extension from the Clippers last summer with his sights set on a larger deal as an unrestricted free agent this upcoming offseason. While the Clippers considered Harris, 26, close to a max-level contract player, that would be difficult for them to pay given their lofty free agent goals.

Expected to have salary-cap space for two max-level contracts, they’re expected to pursue several premier free agents this offseason, when players such as Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson and Jimmy Butler are expected to be available. Many believe the Clippers are Leonard’s preferred destination.

The Clippers pushed for Harris to make the All-Star roster this season, and though he was left off the team, Philadelphia receives an All-Star-caliber talent to add to a roster that already includes three players with All-Star credentials in Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Butler, who they acquired from Minnesota earlier this season.

Forward Danilo Gallinari, who is expected to return as soon as Thursday from back spasms that have kept him out of the past nine games, will be reunited with Chandler, someone he played alongside in New York and Denver.

Marjanovic, a fan favorite, was averaging a career-high 6.7 points and 10.4 minutes per game – and co-starred with Harris in the Clippers’ series of silly video shorts, titled the “Bobi + Tobi Show.” The pair was traded to the Clippers, along with Avery Bradley, last January in the deal that sent Blake Griffin to Detroit.

Scott played sporadically this season, his first with the Clippers after signing as a free agent last summer. He was averaging 4.8 points per game and shooting 39.1 percent from behind the 3-point arc.

Chandler, 31, is averaging 6.7 points and 4.7 rebounds in 26.4 minutes per game this season. Shamet, 21, is averaging 8.3 points in 20.5 minutes. Muscala, 27, was posting 7.4 points and 4.3 rebounds in 22.2 minutes.

Chandler and Muscala have expiring contracts. Shamet is earning $1.7 million this season with a guaranteed contract of nearly $2 million next season; the last two years of his contract are team options.

Removing Harris from the Clippers’ roster certainly hurts the team’s playoff hopes. The Clippers, Lakers, Utah Jazz and Sacramento Kings are all separated by only a few games in a battle for the last few spots in the Western Conference playoff mix.

However, missing the playoffs would have a silver lining for the Clippers, since retaining that lottery-protected first-round pick instead of seeing it transfer to Boston this spring could prove a savvy strategic move. The Celtics are reportedly trying to convince the New Orleans Pelicans to wait until the offseason to trade big man Anthony Davis, and seeing a potential mid-round 2019 first-round pick from the Clippers evolve into a 2020 pick that could be in the latter third of the first round instead is a potential downgrade of Boston’s stockpile of assets.

From the moment Davis informed the Pelicans he wanted to be traded it has been presumed he would try to force his way to the Lakers or New York Knicks, but reports this week indicated that Davis, who intends to opt out of his existing contract in July of 2020, regardless, would also consider the Clippers and Milwaukee Bucks as teams he’d consider re-signing with long-term.

New Orleans could have interest in the Clippers’ assets prior to Thursday’s trade deadline, or perhaps again in the offseason if Davis remains on the Pelicans’ roster.

Can confirm, the #Clippers are trading the Bobi + Tobi show and Mike Scott for Landry Shamet, Wilson Chandler, Mike Muscala and four draft picks, per league source.

— Mirjam Swanson (@MirjamSwanson) February 6, 2019

Damnnnnn crazy news!!! NBA people !

— Marcin Gortat🇵🇱 (@MGortat) February 6, 2019

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Clippers agree to trade Tobias Harris to 76ers, acquire multiple 1st-round picks in 6-player deal

The Clippers have agreed to trade leading scorer Tobias Harris to the Philadelphia 76ers in a blockbuster deal, a person not authorized to speak publicly on the matter confirmed to Southern California News Group reporter Mirjam Swanson late Tuesday.

The Clippers will deal Harris, who made a game-winning shot to beat the Hornets in Charlotte just a few hours before the trade, center Boban Marjanovic and forward Mike Scott to Philadephia in exchange for forwards Wilson Chandler and Mike Muscala, rookie guard Landry Shamet, two first-round picks (one lottery protected) and two second-round picks. Terms of the deal were first reported by ESPN.

The move comes less than 48 hours before the league’s Thursday noon PT trade deadline. The Clippers had not been considered aggressive buyers or sellers in recent days, but they found a partner in the 76ers, who will send first-round picks in 2020 (lottery protected) and 2021 (unprotected, via Miami). The second-round picks are in 2021 and 2023 (via Detroit).

The 76ers are one of the top four teams in the Eastern Conference and apparently are budgeting to retain free agents-to-be Jimmy Butler and newly acquired Harris this summer, hoping to create a long-term Big Four with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.

Harris and Marjanovic came to the Clippers a little more than one year ago as part of the trade that sent Blake Griffin to Detroit. Scott signed a one-year deal as a free agent last summer.

Harris was enjoying his best NBA season, averaging 20.7 points, 7.9 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game while flirting with the exclusive 50-40-90 shooting club (field goal percentage, 3-point percentage, free-throw percentage).

Danilo Gallinari, the Clippers’ second-leading scorer, is expected to return from back spasms sometime during the team’s current road trip, but removing Harris from the roster certainly hurts the team’s playoff hopes. The Clippers, Lakers, Utah Jazz and Sacramento Kings are all separated by only a few games in a battle for the last few spots in the Western Conference playoff mix.

However, should the Clippers miss the playoffs, they would retain their first-round draft pick this year, instead of seeing it transfer to Boston. That could prove a savvy strategic move, since Boston is reportedly trying to convince the New Orleans Pelicans to wait until the offseason to trade big man Anthony Davis, and the Celtics losing a first-round pick from their stockpile of assets is notable.

The Clippers have already set themselves up to clear enough salary-cap space to chase at least one, if not two elite free agents this summer. Many believe the Clippers are the preferred destination for Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard, but Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson and Butler are all expected to be free agents this summer as well.

While the Clippers considered Harris, 26, close to a max-level contract player, that would have been difficult for them to pay given their lofty free agent goals.

From the moment Davis informed the Pelicans he wanted to be traded it has been presumed he would try to force his way to the Lakers or New York Knicks, but reports this week indicated that Davis, who intends to opt out of his existing contract in July of 2020, regardless, would also consider the Clippers and Milwaukee Bucks as teams he’d consider re-signing with long-term.

New Orleans could have interest in the Clippers’ assets prior to Thursday’s trade deadline, and perhaps again in the offseason if Davis remains on the Pelicans roster.

More to come on this story.

Can confirm, the #Clippers are trading the Bobi + Tobi show and Mike Scott for Landry Shamet, Wilson Chandler, Mike Muscala and four draft picks, per league source.

— Mirjam Swanson (@MirjamSwanson) February 6, 2019

Damnnnnn crazy news!!! NBA people !

— Marcin Gortat🇵🇱 (@MGortat) February 6, 2019

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Anthony Davis, Pelicans hold off Clippers down the stretch

  • The Clippers’ Montrezl Harrell, bottom, and the Pelicans’ Anthony Davis battle for possession of the ball during the first half of Monday’s game at Staples Center. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 14: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander #2 of the LA Clippers keeps his dribble in front of Elfrid Payton #4 of the New Orleans Pelicans during the first half at Staples Center on January 14, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

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  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 14: Danilo Gallinari #8 of the LA Clippers drives to the basket on Anthony Davis #23 of the New Orleans Pelicans during the first half at Staples Center on January 14, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 14: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander #2 of the LA Clippers makes a pass around Elfrid Payton #4 of the New Orleans Pelicans during the first half at Staples Center on January 14, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 14: Lou Williams #23 of the LA Clippers drives to the basket between Jahlil Okafor #8 and Darius Miller #21 of the New Orleans Pelicans during the first half at Staples Center on January 14, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 14: Anthony Davis #23 of the New Orleans Pelicans backs in Danilo Gallinari #8 of the LA Clippers during the first half at Staples Center on January 14, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • Los Angeles Clippers’ Danilo Gallinari, right, dribbles against New Orleans Pelicans’ Anthony Davis during the first half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Jan. 14, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

  • Los Angeles Clippers’ Montrezl Harrell, center, goes to basket and gets fouled by New Orleans Pelicans’ Darius Miller, left, during the first half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Jan. 14, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

  • New Orleans Pelicans’ Elfrid Payton, left, tries to control a ball while defended by Los Angeles Clippers’ Lou Williams during the first half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Jan. 14, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 14: Danilo Gallinari #8 of the LA Clippers attempts a shot in front of Darius Miller #21 and Julius Randle #30 of the New Orleans Pelicans during the first half at Staples Center on January 14, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • Los Angeles Clippers’ Montrezl Harrell, dunks against New Orleans Pelicans during the first half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Jan. 14, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 14: Montrezl Harrell #5 of the LA Clippers reacts to his dunk during the first half against the New Orleans Pelicans at Staples Center on January 14, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • New Orleans Pelicans’ Jrue Holiday, right, goes to basket while defended by Los Angeles Clippers’ Montrezl Harrell during the first half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Jan. 14, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

  • Los Angeles Clippers’ Patrick Beverley, right, shoots against New Orleans Pelicans’ Elfrid Payton during the first half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Jan. 14, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

  • Los Angeles Clippers’ Montrezl Harrell, front left, dunks against New Orleans Pelicans’ Jrue Holiday, front right, during the first half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Jan. 14, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

  • The Pelicans’ Anthony Davis, right, handles the ball as he tries to back down the Clippers’ Danilo Gallinari during the first half of Monday’s game at Staples Center. Davis had 46 points and 16 rebounds in New Orleans’ 121-117 win. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

  • New Orleans Pelicans’ Anthony Davis, left, shoots against Los Angeles Clippers’ Danilo Gallinari during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Jan. 14, 2019, in Los Angeles. The Pelicans won 121-117. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

  • Los Angeles Clippers’ Danilo Gallinari, left, and New Orleans Pelicans’ Jrue Holiday fight for a ball during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Jan. 14, 2019, in Los Angeles. The Pelicans won 121-117. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

  • New Orleans Pelicans’ Elfrid Payton, front, dunks against the Los Angeles Clippers during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Jan. 14, 2019, in Los Angeles. The Pelicans won 121-117. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 14: Anthony Davis #23 of the New Orleans Pelicans reacts as he is fouled by Danilo Gallinari #8 of the LA Clippers during a 121-117 Pelicans win at Staples Center on January 14, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 14: Doc Rivers of the LA Clippers reacts to a Clipper foul on Anthony Davis #23 of the New Orleans Pelicans during a 121-117 Pelicans win at Staples Center on January 14, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 14: Anthony Davis #23 of the New Orleans Pelicans scores past Montrezl Harrell #5 and Danilo Gallinari #8 of the LA Clippers during a 121-117 Pelicans win at Staples Center on January 14, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 14: Julius Randle #30 of the New Orleans Pelicans scores on a layup around Marcin Gortat #13 of the LA Clippers during a 121-117 Pelicans win at Staples Center on January 14, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 14: Anthony Davis #23 of the New Orleans Pelicans shoots over Tobias Harris #34 of the LA Clippers during a 121-117 Pelicans win at Staples Center on January 14, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 14: Anthony Davis #23 of the New Orleans Pelicans reacts as he is fouled by Patrick Beverley #21 of the LA Clippers in the fourth quarter during a 121-117 Pelicans win at Staples Center on January 14, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • New Orleans Pelicans’ Anthony Davis, left, gets fouled by Los Angeles Clippers’ Tyrone Wallace during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Jan. 14, 2019, in Los Angeles. The Pelicans won 121-117. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

  • New Orleans Pelicans’ Julius Randle, right, goes to the basket as Los Angeles Clippers’ Danilo Gallinari looks on during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Jan. 14, 2019, in Los Angeles. The Pelicans won 121-117. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

  • New Orleans Pelicans’ Anthony Davis, second from left, goes to basket against the Los Angeles Clippers during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Jan. 14, 2019, in Los Angeles. The Pelicans won 121-117. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

  • New Orleans Pelicans’ Anthony Davis, left, and Los Angeles Clippers’ Montrezl Harrell go to the floor for a ball during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Jan. 14, 2019, in Los Angeles. The Pelicans won 121-117. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 14: Montrezl Harrell #5 of the LA Clippers hugs Anthony Davis #23 of the New Orleans Pelicans after a 121-117 Pelicans win at Staples Center on January 14, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

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LOS ANGELES — This week might prove every bit as tough as it looked on the schedule.

Facing the New Orleans Pelicans on Monday, with games coming up against the Utah Jazz on Wednesday and the Golden State Warriors on Friday, the Clippers fell behind by as many as 20 points midway through the third quarter before yanking it back, taking and losing a fourth-quarter lead, and then finally running out of gas, 121-117.

They didn’t go quietly, but they lost their third consecutive contest.

“We’ve gotta start finishing games again,” said Coach Doc Rivers, whose team suffered another narrow defeat at home Saturday, when it lost 109-104 to Blake Griffin and the Detroit Pistons. “These last two games, we had a chance to win the game, but we didn’t finish the game off.”

Three buckets in the final minute by Lou Williams – who was frigid until then, having made only 3 of 16 attempts – gave the Clippers (24-19) a shot at victory. But Anthony Davis rejected that notion.

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Williams’ floater with 26.5 seconds left fell to make it 117-115, but Davis’ two free throws increased the Pelicans’ lead to four points with 13 seconds left.

Then Williams – who was playing his 900th career game – made a layup with 7.9 seconds left to bring the Clippers back within two. And, again, Davis made another pair of foul shots with six seconds left for the final tally.

Like most teams, the Clippers couldn’t do much to contain Davis, the Pelicans’ 6-foot-10 superstar forward who Clippers coach Doc Rivers first knew as a significantly shorter teenage point guard playing in the same AAU circles as his son Austin.

“He told me he was playing like (garbage) in the second quarter,” Rivers said. “I shouldn’t have talked to him.”

Davis doused the Clippers with a game-high 46 points (after missing his first five shots and scoring just four points in the opening quarter) and 16 rebounds, including five big offensive boards.

“He made some tough shots, and then got offensive rebounds too that hurt us,” said Rivers, whose team gave up 15 offensive boards in all, committed 16 turnovers and allowed the Pelicans to take 19 more shots than they did.

“(After) one, I called a timeout: There was three guys who had him under the basket, and he came up with the ball. All three of our guys jumped, and I asked them which one of them thought they were going to out-jump Anthony Davis? At what point did they think that was going to happen?

“You gotta hit him, you gotta box him out first – if you think you’re going to get in an athletic contest with Anthony Davis, things aren’t going to go well for you.”

Former Laker Julius Randle seemed right at home at Staples Center, too, finishing with 27 points, six rebounds and five assists as the Pelicans earned just their second road win this season against a Western Conference team.

The Clippers stayed afloat thanks largely to Montrezl Harrell’s typical all-out exertion – and newfound court vision. The 6-8 center came off the bench and finished with a team-high 26 points on 10-for-16 shooting, as well as 10 rebounds and four assists, for his seventh game this season with at least four assists and his fifth since Dec. 10.

The Clippers’ 3-point shooting helped keep them in it. They entered Monday averaging 24.5 attempts per game (which ranked 29th out of 30 NBA teams), but they were firing freely – shooting 18 for 36 from deep – against the Pelicans (21-23).

Seven Clippers connected from beyond the arc, led by Danilo Gallinari, who went 6 for 9, the most 3-pointers he’s made in a game as a Clipper. Tobias Harris (25 points) was 5 for 7 from deep, Avery Bradley went 3 for 8 and one apiece by Williams, Mike Scott, Patrick Beverley and Tyrone Wallace, who made his first 3-pointer of the season.

A four-point play by Gallinari gave the Clippers their first lead in the second half. The veteran forward – who will be visiting the dentist Tuesday after losing a tooth late in the game – converted his free-throw attempt after being fouled by Nikola Mirotic on a made 3-pointer, to make it 101-100.

After both teams played an even, high-energy first half, all the fizz was out of the Clippers following halftime. Meanwhile, New Orleans’ party was still going strong.

The Pelicans opened a 92-72 lead with 4:54 to play before Harris and Harrell helped shake the Clippers awake from their mid-game nap. The two took turns scoring as the Clippers launched a 16-2 run to close the third quarter, a surge that was capped by Wallace’s 3-pointer from the corner with 9:42 left in the quarter. His shot brought the crowd to attention and cut the deficit to 94-88.

“We’re fighting (back) from a 20-point deficit, you know how much energy that exerts in an NBA game?” Harrell said. “Especially having to go down and guard the other end of the floor?

“We just gotta stop putting ourselves in these holes. Yeah, we do a great job of coming back and fighting and getting back into it, but we’re running out of gas. We’re using so much energy and we’re doing so much fighting to put ourselves just to get within three, five here and there, you know, guys are giving out.

“We just gotta start each quarter with the mindset that we’re gonna win the quarter and if we go in with the mindset of winning the quarter, then you’re gonna win the game. We just gotta stop having those lapses.”

The Clippers trailed 66-63 at halftime despite shooting 53.7 percent from the field and making 10 of 19 from 3-point range (their second-highest total for a half this season). Gallinari and Harris both finished the half 3 for 3 from behind the arc.

Davis finished the half with 17 points.

The Pelicans forced 10 first-half turnovers (which they converted to 18 points) and committed only three of their own before finishing with six.

“I just want to score a lot of points. If we get 50 layups and score 130, I’m fine with that too. I don’t care how we score.”@DocRivers keeps it honest and emphasizes he wants to see improvement out of his @LAClippers pic.twitter.com/WFfPTKha3j

— FOX Sports West (@FoxSportsWest) January 15, 2019

“Dentist time tomorrow” for @gallinari8888 😷pic.twitter.com/mjyYiy2rDJ

— FOX Sports West (@FoxSportsWest) January 15, 2019

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Clippers can’t complete comeback against Joel Embiid, 76ers

  • Referee Josh Tiven, left, holds back 76ers center Joel Embiid, center, from an altercation against the Clippers during the second half of Tuesday’s game at Staples Center. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

  • Philadelphia 76ers guard Jimmy Butler, right, protects the ball from Los Angeles Clippers guard Tyrone Wallace during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

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  • Los Angeles Clippers guard Avery Bradley, right, steals the ball away from Philadelphia 76ers guard JJ Redick during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

  • Los Angeles Clippers guard Avery Bradley, left, shoots while Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

  • Philadelphia 76ers forward Wilson Chandler, left, stops Los Angeles Clippers guard Tyrone Wallace during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

  • Los Angeles Clippers forward Tobias Harris, left, shoots next to Philadelphia 76ers guard Jimmy Butler during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

  • 76ers guard Ben Simmons, left, loses the ball as Clippers forward Tobias Harris defends during the first half of Tuesday’s game at Staples Center. Simmons had 14 points, nine rebounds and eight assists in the 76ers’ 119-113 victory. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

  • Philadelphia 76ers forward Mike Muscala, left, fouls Los Angeles Clippers forward Tobias Harris during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

  • Los Angeles Clippers forward Danilo Gallinari (8) shoots next to Philadelphia 76ers forward Wilson Chandler (22) during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

  • Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons, left, vies for the ball with Los Angeles Clippers forward Tobias Harris during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

  • Los Angeles Clippers forward Montrezl Harrell, right, looks to pass the ball away from Philadelphia 76ers forward Mike Muscala, center, and guard Jimmy Butler, left, during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

  • Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid, left, knocks the ball away from Los Angeles Clippers center Boban Marjanovic, center, with forward Jonah Bolden, right, defending during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

  • Referee Josh Tiven, left, holds back Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid, center, from an altercation against the Los Angeles Clippers during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

  • Los Angeles Clippers guard Lou Williams, left, reaches in for the ball against Philadelphia 76ers guard Furkan Korkmaz during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

  • Philadelphia 76ers guard Jimmy Butler, left, battles Los Angeles Clippers forward Tobias Harris for the ball during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

  • Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid, left, pushes away Los Angeles Clippers guard Patrick Beverley, right, after pulling in a rebound during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

  • Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid, left, is fouled by Los Angeles Clippers forward Montrezl Harrell during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

  • Philadelphia 76ers guard JJ Redick, center, shoots past Los Angeles Clippers guard Patrick Beverley, right, and center Marcin Gortat, left, during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

  • Philadelphia 76ers guard Jimmy Butler, right, collides with Los Angeles Clippers forward Danilo Gallinari during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

  • Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons (25) shoots over Los Angeles Clippers forward Tobias Harris (34) during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

  • Los Angeles Clippers guard Avery Bradley (11) gets shielded by Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons, above right, and forward Wilson Chandler, second from left, from going after guard Jimmy Butler, left, after an altercation during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019. Both Bradley and Butler were given technical fouls and ejected from the game. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

  • Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons (25) dunks against the Los Angeles Clippers during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

  • Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons (25) roars after he dunks against the Los Angeles Clippers during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

  • Los Angeles Clippers forward Montrezl Harrell (5) stands with forward Tobias Harris (34) and guard Sindarius Thornwell (0) after the 76ers defeat the Clippers 119-113 in an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

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LOS ANGELES — Not for a lack of fight, at least in the fourth quarter, the Clippers opened 2019 with a 119-113 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday night at Staples Center.

Flat early, the Clippers (21-16) clawed almost all the way back after falling behind by as many as 24 points in the first half.

Montrezl Harrell’s layup out of a timeout brought the Clippers within 116-111 with 32.7 seconds remaining before the 76ers’ Ben Simmons missed both free throws (actually all three, including the extra attempt he got on account of a lane violation) and TJ McConnell made one of two foul shots.

Then Tobias Harris’ dunk with 15.9 seconds left cut the margin to 117-113, but, after a timeout, Simmons inbounded the ball off the Clippers’ Sindarius Thornwell along the sideline, corralled it and flew in to punctuate the victory with a dunk.

The Clippers trailed 110-97 with just more than six minutes left before they drew within five on a pair of Patrick Beverley free throws, a Harris layin and a Harrell dunk.

Joel Embiid and Harrell exchanged big plays in the final minutes, including a steal and a block by the Clippers’ energetic big man, as L.A. kept nipping at Philadelphia (24-14) until time expired.

“They deserved to win, overall,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “They played harder for longer and I thought they were more physical for a longer period in the game. It would have been nice to steal a game, but we would’ve stole it, not necessarily earned it.”

In the first half, the Clippers had no answers for Embiid; the dynamic 7-footer dominated and frustrated the Clippers, who also had trouble with a talented, versatile big man on Saturday, when San Antonio’s LaMarcus Aldridge scored a season-high 38 points to power the Spurs to a 122-111 victory.

“We have to be better at that position,” Rivers said. “Defensively, we have to be more physical. Marc (Gortat) overall fought pretty well, I didn’t think at the beginning, but when he came back in. And Trezz fought the hardest, and he was the most undersized. Bobi (Marjanovic) really struggled.”

The last time out, back on Nov. 1, Marjanovic made it interesting in a 122-113 Sixers victory.

On Tuesday before 17,868 fans, it was Patrick Beverley and Avery Bradley. They got tangled up with Embiid and Jimmy Butler late on a pair of plays that resulted in technical fouls on Embiid, Bradley and Butler – the latter two of whom were ejected after facing off and shoving each other.

Rivers said his initial impression of Bradley’s ejection was that it was unwarranted.

“I have to look at it, (but) I thought it was a little unfair,” Rivers said. “I thought Avery pushed and the other guy grabbed around the neck, I thought.”

“It got physical,” Butler said. “Every player on every team wants to win. We got too close to one another and … things happen. Some pushing, some shoving, some technical fouls and we got ejected.”

Tempers weren’t as strained in the teams’ first meeting, when Marjanovic had 15 points and 11 rebounds as the Clippers erased most of a 22-point deficit. The 7-foot-3 center seemed then to confound Embiid, who finished with 41 points that night but seemed primed for more until Marjanovic appeared.

In Tuesday’s game, however, Embiid seemed to relish the five minutes of the matchup – and every other one the Clippers could conjure.

After Harrell was quickly called for a second foul, and with the Clippers getting devoured inside, Marjanovic got the call with his team trailing 29-24, and 2:27 left in the first quarter. By then Embiid had 11 points, and the 76ers collectively had 16 points in the paint to the Clippers’ 10, along with nine second-chance points.

Embiid responded by immediately drawing Marjanovic outside to guard his 3-point attempt. He missed that one, but he made two of his four 3-point attempts.

Despite being questionable to play before the game because of soreness in his left knee, Embiid appeared entirely comfortable as he piled up 28 points, 19 rebounds and three blocked shots.

The 24-year-old used his quickness to get around the Clippers’ biggest man and his size and power to push past the others – including Beverley, the Clippers’ feisty 6-foot-1 guard, who didn’t hesitate to get tangled up with Embiid in the fourth quarter, by which time the big man, who scored only nine points in the second half as the Clippers threw additional bodies at him.

Beverley was called for a foul on the play, and Embiid was tagged with a technical for shoving Beverley away.

It wasn’t only Embiid ringing in the new year for Philly, which also got 18 from former Clipper JJ Redick, who was feeling it early, with 16 first-half points.

Before he was tossed, Butler had 16 points and Simmons, sprinting ever downhill, had 14 points, nine rebounds and eight assists.

Williams led the Clippers with 22 points but was 1 for 8 from 3-point range, and Harris and Danilo Gallinari had 21 apiece. Harrell finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds.

It was the second consecutive loss for the Clippers, who whittled the deficit to 13 at the end of the third quarter.

The 76ers connected on 48.3 percent of their shots from the field, 12 of 26 from behind the arc and shot 22 for 33 from the free-throw line.

The Clippers – who did finish with a season-high 12 steals, including three by Harris – also lost on the boards (55-41). The not-their-night theme extended even to Williams, who also uncharacteristically missed four of his nine free-throw tries as his team went 24 for 34 from the line.

“We’re not a team that can ease into a game,” Beverley said. “We have to be dogs, we have to be gritty, that’s our M.O. and we have to build off that. As of lately, we’ve been trying to ease into games, and we can’t do that.

“And we’ll fix it, it’s just that time of the season where it’s dragging and all that. But we will come out and we’ll fix it.”

🤭 Ben Simmons puts an exclamation point on the @sixers W! #HereTheyCome pic.twitter.com/yKsZHZS2zZ

— NBA (@NBA) January 2, 2019

💪@JoelEmbiid scores 28 PTS and pulls down 19 REB to guide the @sixers at Staples Center! #HereTheyCome pic.twitter.com/NBBrk4BOms

— NBA (@NBA) January 2, 2019

“We fought pretty hard in the 4th quarter.”

Doc Rivers postgame press conference following loss to Philly ⬇@LAClippers l #ClipperNation pic.twitter.com/hw0nv8EekW

— FOX Sports West (@FoxSportsWest) January 2, 2019

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