SACRAMENTO, Calif.--In the Los Angeles Clippers' season opener, players' heads dropped toward the floor like anchors as the Los Angeles Lakers made shot after shot to surge ahead in the fourth quarter.
Coach Doc Rivers hoped that early loss would be a lesson. Friday in Sacramento, he got proof that the lesson was received.
The Clippers hung on to 110-101 victory over Sacramento, withstanding a huge run from the Kings in the second half.
"That's us growing as a team," Rivers said. "We're kind of finding ourselves as a team."
Thanks to hot shooting from long distance -- 12 of 24 from 3-point range -- the Clippers built a comfortable lead that ballooned to 15 in the third quarter. Reserve guard Isaiah Thomas and DeMarcus Cousins helped start a comeback that eventually got the Kings back on top midway through the fourth quarter.
Thomas finished with a game-high 29 points.
"We almost lost our composure there," Rivers said.
Instead, the Clippers put their faith into the schemes that have been installed on both sides of the ball, starting defensively.
"We've played our defense. Everyone in here knows what that means, and I think it's working," Chris Paul said. "What it does is it builds trust."
Paul handled things offensively, scoring 26 points and dishing out 10 assists. Blake Griffin finished with a dominant 17 rebounds to go with 20 points and six assists.
With back-to-back emotional wins coming on consecutive nights, players are understanding what it's going to be like all year.
"When people think you have a shot at it, everyone wants to knock you off," Rivers said. "That's the way it's going to be. At the end of the day, it'll be good for us. To go through a season of this, hopefully we'll be really well tested.
Fine with fouls
Teams will likely continue to intentionally foul DeAndre Jordan, as the Clippers' big man made only 4 of 14 free throws in the first two games of the year.
Rivers, though, said he won't sit Jordan in the clutch because defensive contributions outweigh the deficiency at the line. Still, that's a tough message to convey to Jordan.
"It's hard. He's a perfectionist," Rivers said. "He wants to do everything great."
Rivers said he liked how Jordan and his teammates handled it when Golden State sent him to the line Thursday, when Jordan made 3 of 12.
Sacramento used the strategy in the first half Friday, but Jordan drained 4 of 6, including two in the fourth quarter.
"Doc has been a big motivator," Jordan said. "He told me before the game that he doesn't care if I shoot it over the backboard as long as I try to make one out of two and get a stop. When somebody tells you that, you're not really as pressured."
Rivers said he thinks intentionally fouling is a legitimate strategy, and he'd be opposed to rule changes prohibiting it.
"I just think it's a strategy just like walking David Ortiz," he said. "I don't know how you change that. I know there's been talk, and I think there will continue to be talk. I wouldn't be shocked if there was a rule change at some point, but I honestly hope not."
Paul and new Sacramento coach Michael Malone have history, working together for one season in New Orleans, where Malone was an assistant. "I love Chris. I was only with him for one year in New Orleans, and we definitely created a very tight bond," Malone said. "I think he's the best competitor I've ever been around in my 13 years in the NBA." ...
Barnes was called for a flagrant foul 1 for the second time in three games.
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