The game quickly shifted, as it often does for the Clippers, when L.A.'s reserves took the court to start the fourth quarter.
They were given a two-point lead by the starters, a lead that Jamal Crawford, Eric Bledsoe, Lamar Odom, Matt Barnes and Ronny Turiaf turned into a rout.
And after it was over, after that fivesome had throttled the Phoenix Suns, 117-99, Saturday afternoon at Staples Center to push the Clippers' winning streak to five straight games, Coach Vinny Del Negro had kind words for his reserves but not his starters.
"Thank the bench, because our starters were struggling," Del Negro said. "They got us off to a bad start again. I was disappointed with that. I didn't think our energy defensively was good.
"But I thought Lamar, Eric, Matt [and] obviously Jamal got going for us.... Overall, our bench — [with] Turiaf — they won the game for us."
The Clippers' bench had 56 of the team's points, 23 of 41 rebounds, 14 of 30 assists, four steals and two blocked shots in a game in which the starters didn't play in the fourth.
And the Clippers' bench did it on offense and defense in the fourth, scoring the team's 32 points on 63.6% shooting and holding the Suns to 16 points.
Crawford had 13 of his 21 points in the fourth.
Bledsoe had eight of his 10 points in the fourth, all four of his assists and both of his steals.
Odom finished with eight points, eight rebounds and three assists, Barnes 13 points, eight rebounds and three assists and Turiaf five rebounds, two assists and two blocked shots.
"It is like what I said pregame, their bench is what got them separation and not their starters," Suns Coach Alvin Gentry said. "It was Matt, Bledsoe, Lamar, Turiaf and Jamal on the court when they went on their run. There was not one starter on the floor when that happened."
The Clippers' starters were taking their customary rest at the start of the fourth, but it wasn't as if they had been at their best.
They saw the Suns score 31 points in the first quarter, something that left Del Negro very unhappy.
"The starters know that it's about defense," Del Negro said.
That's what the reserves played in the fourth in sending the Suns to their sixth straight loss.
The Clippers' reserves held the Suns to 35% shooting in the fourth.
That allowed the Clippers to go on a 17-4 run to open the fourth.
Crawford had 11 of the points during the run.
"We got a guy off the bench that can get 20 a game, 19 a game in Jamal," Odom said. "Eric changes speed and makes plays. Defensively, we stay solid. We got in the passing lane and denied them the ball. We didn't really give up any offensive rebounds today, and that helped."