LOS ANGELES -- Doc Rivers' eyes had not deceived him.
The halftime box score the Los Angeles Clippers coach stared at Tuesday night at Staples Center was, in fact, accurate: His team had made 50% of its shots, including nine three-pointers, in the first two quarters. And still, the Clippers led Portland, which had made 51% of its shots, by only three points.
Wasn't it only two days before that Rivers had said his team's defense was further along than its offense?
"We just said something's going to give, one way or another," Rivers said of his halftime message. "Either we're going to start defending or we're going to have a tough night."
They chose the former.
Chastened after a porous first half, the Clippers closed off Portland's driving lanes to the rim, took away good three-point looks and didn't allow Carmelo Anthony to add to his charmed beginning with the Trail Blazers over the course of the final 24 minutes en route to a 117-97 victory.
"Just imposed our will on the defensive end," said forward Montrezl Harrell, whose campaign for the NBA's top reserve continued after 26 points and nine rebounds, with no turnovers, in 30 minutes.
In their last game at Staples Center before beginning a six-game trip, the Clippers (16-6) improved to 13-1 at home. Paul George scored 25 points and Patrick Patterson scored 19 off the bench, with George making six three-pointers and Patterson making five.
Though the Clippers have outscored opponents during first, second and fourth quarters this season, they ranked 18th in the league in third-quarter plus-minus entering Tuesday, outscored by an average of one point per game. That usually has set up a need for a dramatic fourth quarter, and the Clippers have become one of the NBA's best teams in clutch situations.
Such late heroics were not needed against Portland, which pulled its starters with 7:41 to play trailing 102-80.