LOS ANGELES (AP) The Los Angeles Clippers were already down one big star against San Antonio on Thursday night when another one got hurt late in the third quarter.
Without forward Blake Griffin to start and Chris Paul to finish, the Clippers went exclusively to their bench in the fourth quarter to pull out a 106-101 victory over the Spurs.
It was only San Antonio’s second road loss this season in 17 games.
The Clippers’ bench outscored the Spurs’ reserves 58-33. Los Angeles took an 81-73 lead into the fourth and coach Doc Rivers never did return to his starters.
”I just rode `em,” he said.
”That was great. That just shows the confidence we have in our reserves.”
Paul said he did not believe his left hamstring injury was serious and he was holding out hope he could play Friday against the Dallas Mavericks.
”I’m OK,” Paul said. ”I think I just tweaked my hamstring. I’m glad I caught it when I did. It’s probably going to come back, but hopefully I’ll be ready for Dallas.”
Griffin missed his second game following knee surgery Tuesday and is expected to be out up to six weeks.
Paul still led the Clippers in scoring with 19 points, adding seven rebounds and six assists. Marreese Speights had 14 points and seven rebounds, and Raymond Felton scored 13 to lead the barrage off the bench.
Los Angeles reserve Jamal Crawford and starters J.J. Redick and DeAndre Jordan each had 11 points.
”It is always fun to watch some of your teammates play well,” Jordan said. ”Everyone in the second unit gave us a spark. I’m glad we’re so much deeper than we were last year.”
Kawhi Leonard led the Spurs with 27 points and nine rebounds. Pau Gasol had 21 points and nine rebounds.
The Spurs outrebounded the Clippers 54-42 but shot only 40.2 percent from the floor.
”They are playing good defense, but we definitely missed some wide-open shots tonight,” Leonard said.
The Clippers built a 57-45 lead at halftime and never again trailed. They were up by 14 with 43 seconds left, but gave up consecutive baskets on inbounds steals to make the score more respectable for the Spurs.
”You have to play 48 minutes in this league, and we played 24,” coach Gregg Popovich said. ”We played the last 24 minutes competitively, with some energy, some toughness, some fiber, whatever you want to call it. We didn’t for the first 24 and they did it for 48.”
The loss dropped San Antonio to 23-6, with two losses against the Clippers. The Spurs lost by 24 points to Los Angeles at home last month.
Spurs: Leonard is averaging a career-high 23.9 points and 3.0 assists in the first season since Tim Duncan retired.
”Everything is better. He is shooting the 3 better; he just does everything,” Rivers said. ”When you watch him on film it is just really impressive.”
Clippers: Rivers maintains his lineup replacement for Griffin (knee) will remade fluid depending upon the opponent, but for the second time in as many games that Griffin has been out, Rivers started veteran Paul Pierce.
Popovich has spearheaded the movement to rest his veterans. He did not bring Manu Ginobili on the three-game trip and said he also would rest Gasol and Tony Parker on Friday in Portland.
PUTTING TIME IN
The 39-year-old Pierce passed former Celtics teammate Robert Parish for 15th in NBA history in minutes (45,712).
THE BETTER TEAM
Popovich feigned outrage over whether the Clippers’ two victories meant they were the better team.
”Sure they are,” he said. ”They just beat the hell out of us twice, does that mean we are better? That is a silly question.”
Spurs: Play at Portland on Friday, their first meeting this season with the Trail Blazers. The Spurs swept all three games against Portland last season.
Clippers: Play back-to-back home games, hosting the Mavericks on Friday. The Clippers have gone 13-5 in their last 18 games against Dallas.