Clippers get defensive late to turn back Pistons

Trying to reset his defense after seeing Marcus Morris make his fifth three-pointer Sunday , Detroit coach Dwane Casey called for a timeout midway through the third quarter inside Staples Center.

The shot was the Clippers’ fourth consecutive make, their sixth in their previous seven attempts and pushed their shooting against the Pistons to a blistering 70% — the kind of scoring avalanche from this season’s highest-efficiency offense that has buried many an opponent.

Many, but not all. Because when Casey took the timeout, his team still led by seven. By the third quarter’s end, the Clippers were still shooting 69% — and the Pistons nonetheless led by five, their advantage seemingly impervious to one of the Clippers’ best offensive performances in a season full of worthy candidates.

The only thing more startling than their own scoring was their inability to block Detroit’s.

Having entered the game ranking 23rd in offensive efficiency, 25th in overall accuracy and 19th in three-point shooting, the Pistons shot 52% and 46% from three-point range against a defense missing Kawhi Leonard, who rested, and feasted when afforded easy opportunities by the Clippers’ own mistakes.

Their defense finally showed up. It was better late than never.

Highlights from the Clippers’ 131-124 victory over the Detroit Pistons at Staples Center on Sunday.

The Clippers’ 19-8 run late over the final five minutes of the fourth was finally enough to secure a 131-124 victory that is their fifth consecutive. They end a nine-game homestand with a 7-2 record.

Takeaways from the victory:

1. Closing out the Pistons kept the Clippers from wasting two enormous performances by Paul George (32 points) and Morris (33).

After resting Friday, George picked up right where he’d left off by scoring at least 30 for a third consecutive game. Considering the team’s almost out-of-body shooting statistics, George’s fourth quarter was an outlier, making just one of his nine shots. And yet that one was a poster dunk over rookie Isaiah Stewart that was easily the game’s biggest highlight.

2. The Clippers (37-18) dug themselves a 12-point hole in the first half because it wasn’t enough that Detroit was enjoying one of its best shooting nights of the season. The Clippers gifted Detroit 17 turnovers for 28 points, many of which were live-ball mistakes that helped Detroit (16-38) score 15 transition points.

Reggie Jackson had four turnovers, but Rajon Rondo added three and four teammates had two apiece.

3. On paper, this seemed like another game where DeMarcus Cousins could find playing time during his 10-day contract. Instead, the Clippers played forward Patrick Patterson as a backup center.

Clippers forward Marcus Morris Sr. drives for a layup against Pistons forward Josh Jackson on Sunday night at Staples Center.

(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

But mostly, they rode starter Ivica Zubac, who responded with a season-high seven assists, 10 rebounds and 13 points. His 11th double-double this season marked a new single-season career high.

4. One of the unsung efforts was that of Nicolas Batum, who scored 14 points off the bench, added nine rebounds and, in a rare display of defense during the Clippers’ porous first three quarters, stopped a dunk attempt by Pistons rookie Saddiq Bey at the rim by placing his right hand just inches from the basket.

5. These teams will meet again Wednesday in Detroit, but Serge Ibaka won’t be in the Clippers’ lineup then, either. Ibaka, who has missed 13 consecutive games and hasn’t played since March 14 because of a back injury, won’t join the Clippers on their trip that also includes games Tuesday in Indiana and Friday against Philadelphia, coach Tyronn Lue said.

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