The Los Angeles Clippers were playing mediocre basketball when they embarked on their first extended trip, but they returned to Staples Center looking rejuvenated.
They’ll hit the road this time doing just about everything at a high level.
After an emotional overtime win to conclude their homestand, the Clippers look to make it nine straight victories Wednesday night as they try to deal the sputtering Indiana Pacers a sixth consecutive loss.
Los Angeles was 5-4 when it opened a seven-game trip to close November, but it returned to Southern California with six wins and the beginnings of an impressive streak.
Only one of the Clippers’ first seven victories during this run was decided by fewer than 16 points, but it couldn’t run away from Phoenix on Monday. It took Blake Griffin’s 3-pointer bouncing in at the overtime buzzer — the last of his 45 points — to help the Clippers (15-5) escape with a 121-120 win.
“As far as wins, this was better than (the rest of the streak) because this was one we clearly could have lost,” said coach Doc Rivers, who felt his team — particularly Chris Paul — tired toward the end.
“You could see on everybody’s faces that they knew they didn’t play their best. … That’s a good sign for your team, when you pull out a win but guys own up and know they have to be better.”
They might not have to be better against the Pacers (7-14) to open this three-game trip with a victory. Indiana has lost five straight while shooting 41.6 percent overall and just 29.2 percent from 3-point range.
Three of Indiana’s five opponents during the skid have shot at least 50 percent, with Atlanta making 51.9 percent Monday in a 108-92 win at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
“We’ve got to keep out spirits up,” point guard Rodney Stuckey said. “We know that we’re in a slump right now, but we’ve got to fight our way out of it. (We’ve got) another opportunity (Wednesday) to come out here and play basketball.”
They’ll need to start by containing Griffin, who has 75 points in his last two games and has scored more during the Clippers’ winning streak (214) than all but two Pacers — Solomon Hill and Chris Copeland — have all season.
As integral as Griffin has been, Los Angeles’ shooters have been just as key. J.J. Redick (44.4), Jamal Crawford (42.9) and Chris Paul (41.7) have all shot better than 40 percent from 3-point range during the streak.
Now the Clippers get five straight games against the Eastern Conference — including a pair against Indiana. Since a 105-89 loss to Chicago on Nov. 17, Los Angeles has won its five interconference contests by an average of 19.8 points.
While the Clippers winning 75 percent of their games is only good for the West’s fifth-best record, the Pacers are taking solace in being part of the far inferior East.
“The East is so different from the West,” Stuckey said. “I mean, even though we’re what, 7-14 right now, we still have a good opportunity to make the playoffs.
“That’s still our goal.”
Getting Roy Hibbert more involved offensively could help. The Pacers are 4-2 when he scores at least 16 points this season, and he’s had at least 19 in two of Indiana’s three straight wins over Los Angeles.
The Pacers were far healthier for those, of course, and Paul missed a 106-92 loss in Indianapolis on Jan. 18 with a knee injury.
Griffin, whose career high of 47 came against Indiana in January 2011, hasn’t reached 20 over the last four meetings.