PORTLAND, Ore. — This time, the Clippers waited until they had built a big lead before they had a letdown while playing against a Portland Trail Blazers team not considered one of the NBA's elite.
The Clippers blew all but four points of a 25-point lead before they started to play hard again, before they could walk away with a 103-90 victory over the stubborn Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday night at the Rose Garden.
It took Jamal Crawford, who played for the Trail Blazers last season before signing with the Clippers over the summer, scoring 11 of his game-high 25 points in the fourth quarter for the Clippers to win their second straight game.
It took Chris Paul controlling things again by scoring six of his 21 points in the fourth quarter.
It took another strong effort from DeAndre Jordan (21 points, eight rebounds) for the Clippers to escape.
And even though Blake Griffin had only seven points, he did have 10 rebounds.
"The truth of the matter is, we definitely had a letdown," Paul said. "But I think those [Trail Blazers] guys had a burst of energy. And this is a tough place to play. I'd put this as one of the top five toughest places to play in the NBA."
The Clippers led by 24 points early in third quarter but just stopped playing hard at that point.
Portland didn't stop, hitting the Clippers with a 26-8 run to close out the third quarter to trail, 77-71, entering the fourth.
The Trail Blazers got as close as 86-82 before the Clippers went on a 12-3 run to finish off Portland.
The Clippers stopped playing defense, giving up 32 points in the third quarter.
The Clippers stopped hustling, letting the Trail Blazers rip them for 70.6% shooting in the third. The Clippers stopped putting in the extra effort, scoring only 17 points and making just 36.8% of their shots in the third.
And that's why the game became so tenuous.
"Like I always talk about, we've got to mature as a group," Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro said.
Paul has said it would be up to the starters to get the Clippers off to a good start against opponents like the young and inexperienced Trail Blazers.
That wasn't the case in the losses to the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers, two teams that missed the playoffs last season.
But it was against Portland.
The early effort helped the Clippers shoot 56.5% in the first quarter and open a nine-point lead.
The Clippers didn't stop in the second quarter, pouring it on in opening a 59-34 lead at one point, shooting 58.1% from the field at the half.
The game got so far out of control that Portland Coach Terry Stotts tried a tactic to slow the game and the Clippers down.
Stotts had his players intentionally foul Jordan and Griffin late in the second quarter.
It didn't help.
But the Clippers played a horrible third quarter before getting it together in the fourth.
"I guess we started playing the score and not the game," said Jordan, who made eight of 10 shots from the field, five of seven from the free-throw line. "They came back on us.
"We just have to let our first half carry over into our second half."