Blake Griffin had 16 points and 12 rebounds as the Clippers beat the Spurs. (Darren Abate / Associated…)
SAN ANTONIO — These Clippers said they were up for the challenge of this difficult four-game trip, even if it did start against the always-tough San Antonio Spurs.
By defeating the Spurs, 92-87, Monday night at the AT&T Center, the Clippers began their trip the right way.
They beat the Spurs for the second time this season because Chris Paul was solid again, scoring 19 points and handing out eight assists, and because Blake Griffin was solid with 16 points and 12 rebounds.
"At the end of the day, I always say you can't win them all without winning the first one," Paul said. "So, you have to set the tone in the first game. And this is a place that you can easily come in here and get blown out."
The Clippers won their sixth consecutive game because their bench was as good as ever.
Matt Barnes, playing 34 minutes 47 seconds because starter Caron Butler suffered a sprained right shoulder that forced him out after the first quarter, had 14 points and nine rebounds.
Eric Bledsoe had seven of his nine points and all of his five rebounds in the fourth quarter. He had three offensive rebounds.
Ronny Turiaf provided a lift in his 5 minutes 10 seconds of play, collecting three offensive rebounds and scoring four points.
The Clippers were also very good on defense, holding the Spurs to 35.4% shooting.
"Our bench, that's who it's always about," Paul said.
And it didn't matter to the Clippers that the Spurs were without starting small forward Kawhi Leonard (left knee injury) and then lost replacement Stephen Jackson (fractured right little finger) in the first half.
"I knew that Caron had hurt himself the last game," Barnes said. "We all have to be ready to step up."
No one was as big as Bledsoe.
He tipped in a Jamal Crawford miss for an 83-74 Clippers lead.
Bledsoe got a defensive rebound and assisted Barnes for a basket and an 85-79 lead.
After San Antonio pulled to within 87-85, Bledsoe hustled after his missed three-point shot for an offensive rebound. He then scored on an offensive rebound off a Paul miss.
"They were looking for Chris and Jamal, so I just played off them," Bledsoe said. "All eyes were on them so I just snuck in and got me a couple of rebounds."
Still, it took a 10-foot runner by Paul and another free throw by Bledsoe to finally put the Spurs away.
Now it's on to Oklahoma City for the Clippers, where they will play the NBA runner-up Thunder on Wednesday.
"It was good for us to go out on the road and beat a Spurs team that swept us out of the playoffs last year," Barnes said.
"Now we have a chance to play against a team that went to the Finals last year and an up-and-coming team like the Nets and even the Hawks. So it was important to get the road trip off with a win."