It was a feel-good win for the Clippers on Saturday night, but they remained cautious after their victory over the Chicago Bulls.
That’s because that one win doesn’t mean that all is fine just yet for a group that admitted it was in a rut.
The Clippers had begun the stretch drive of the regular season by losing four of five games coming out of the All-Star break.
Obviously, that was disconcerting for them.
“It’s going to take a lot more,” Chris Paul said Saturday night after scoring 17 points. “This is one win. It was almost a tale of two halves. Obviously, our second half was a lot better than our first half. We’ve got to put complete games together for us to be anywhere close to where we want to be.”
As their uneven play became the norm, the Clippers started to slide in the Western Conference standings.
They are now the fifth seed in the West, 1 1/2 games behind the fourth-seeded Utah Jazz.
“Every game has been a focus, but this was a big one after dropping two in a row, four out of five, or whatever it’s been,” Blake Griffin said. “Now we get to go home and play the Celtics and then go back on the road. But, yeah, everyone is important.”
It doesn’t get any easier for the Clippers going forward.
They will play the Boston Celtics on Monday night at Staples Center.
Then the Clippers leave Tuesday for games at Minnesota and Memphis in a back-to-back set Wednesday and Thursday.
“We fly all the way to L.A., play one game and then fly to Minnesota,” Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said. “That’s what we’re in. We just have to take it one game at a time.”
Rivers had eviscerated his bench because of its imperfect play during the two-game losing streak.
But Rivers stuck with his reserves, and they rewarded him with a tremendous effort against the Bulls.
When the fourth quarter started, Rivers put substitutes Jamal Crawford, Austin Rivers, Marreese Speights, Raymond Felton and Wesley Johnson on the court together to hold things down.
Crawford was the offensive star, scoring 12 points in the fourth.
Speights was the defensive star, blocking two shots and taking two charges.
The reserves built a 16-point lead in the fourth, helping the Clippers secure a much-needed win.
“The whole bench played well, especially defensively,” Doc Rivers said. “They made little plays. I didn’t even intend on playing all five to start the fourth quarter. I told them they had one minute together, but they ended up playing eight minutes together because they played so well.”
When: 7:30 p.m. Monday.
Where: Staples Center.
On the air: TV: Prime Ticket, TNT; Radio: 570.
Records: Clippers 37-25; Celtics 40-23.
Records vs. Celtics: 0-1.
Update: This will be the final time Clippers forward Paul Pierce, who’s retiring after 19 seasons in the NBA, will play against the Celtics. Pierce played 15 years in Boston, winning a title in 2008. Boston All-Star guard Isaiah Thomas is second in the league in scoring, averaging 29.5 points per game.