Blake Griffin and Chris Paul combined to score only 27 points, but the Los Angeles Clippers still pulled off a 93-85 win on the road against the Sacramento Kings on Thursday night.
Griffin and Paul's totals were the fifth-lowest the two have posted in a game this season and the lowest of any game all season where they both reached their season average for minutes. The other four games where Paul and Griffin scored 20, 23, 23 and 25 were all double-digit margin contests.
So how did the Clippers beat the Kings in a close game without their stars? Simple: Randy Foye, Caron Butler and Eric Bledsoe.
The perimeter trio combined to score 47 points on 50 percent shooting, tiding the Clippers over while Paul struggled through an awful shooting night and Griffin struggled with DeMarcus Cousins' physicality. It's not the most high-profile tandem, but all three have been effective at times this season. When they're effective together -- with Nick Young a possibility, too -- the Clippers can afford less-than-stellar performances from their stars.
Of course, Thursday's game was against Sacramento, one of the five or six worst teams in the NBA. But the Kings aren't terrible at home -- entering the game, they were above .500 at Power Balance Pavilion, with home wins against three probable playoff teams last month, and a home win over Oklahoma City the month before that.
The Kings trailed for most of the night Thursday, finally gaining a 79-78 advantage with under five minutes to go on a Jimmer Fredette 3-pointer.
"Our bench play helped us get into a rhythm," Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro told reporters in Sacramento after the game. "In the third quarter they made a run at us, but overall our bench came through in the clutch for us."
All that said, though, the Clippers still needed Griffin and Paul late. After Fredette's 3, Griffin scored the next three baskets to bring back the momentum and Paul proceeded to drive into the lane for a layup two possessions later. They never again trailed, with Foye sealing the outcome with four straight free throws in the final seconds.
Paul said afterward on TV that it was an "ugly, ugly game," and he was right. He had five turnovers and only four made field goals -- only the third time this year the former has exceeded the latter for him.
But it was an ugly game that could help the Clippers in the final three weeks of the 2011-2012 regular season. They play Sacramento again Saturday, this time at home, and Mo Williams is expected to return from a toe injury that has kept him out the last eight games.
And then they have 10 games in 17 days to close out the regular season. Paul and Griffin won't be at their bests in every game, so it'll be a nice luxury to have if two or three of the complementary scorers can actually score too.