Rapid Reaction: Nets 102, Clippers 93

Thursday night's game between the Los Angeles Clippers and Brooklyn Nets was supposed to be about a long-awaited reunion, but an old rivalry stole the show instead.

Chris Paul and Deron Williams -- heated rivals since entering the league together in 2005 -- went head-to-head for three quarters, tempering the Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce reunion storyline.

As has been the case throughout their careers, Paul might have scored more points (20) than Williams (15) and looked like the better player, but Williams' team walked away with the win. The Nets' 102-93 victory gives Williams a 15-5 advantage in the head-to-head matchup versus Paul.

Before the game, Rivers told reporters that facing Garnett and Pierce for the first time would be "fun" and "different" than his emotional return to Boston's TD Garden the night before. The game was certainly different than the night before -- indeed, the Clippers lost -- but it definitely wasn't fun.

The Clippers' considerable defensive breakdowns in the second and third quarters allowed the Nets to storm back from a double-digit deficit and ultimately build a double-digit lead of their own. The final score was by no means indicative of the complexion of the game, as the Nets had a 21-point lead heading into the fourth before the Clippers' reserves trimmed it to single digits.

How it happened: The Clippers raced out to a 24-12 lead near the end of the first quarter, displaying crisp ball movement and timely defensive rotations. Then their bench checked in and the game quickly slipped away. Brooklyn erased the deficit with a 36-point second quarter and took a 12-point lead into halftime, in large part due to Williams' 12 points over the final few minutes. Joe Johnson (11 points) and Andray Blatche (six points) helped stretch the lead to 21 points at the end of the third quarter, causing Rivers to wave the white flag and put the second unit back in.

What it means: After an underwhelming 1-2 start to their trip, the Clippers bounced back with two gritty wins against the 76ers and Celtics. Their defensive rating crept into the top 10, the general benchmark for a true contender. Despite their vast assortment of injuries and generally spotty play, things were looking up.

And then this debacle happened. The Nets are certainly more talented than their 8-14 record indicates, but this was a game the Clippers should have won, especially considering their stellar first-quarter start. The fact they lost isn't as bad as the way they lost; their defensive breakdowns were embarrassing and the offense couldn't muster many high-percentage looks.

Hits: Neither Paul (20 points, a season-low two assists) nor Blake Griffin (12 points, 11 rebounds) shot particularly well, but they were the only two Clippers to score in double figures before garbage time.

Misses: The Clippers shot 35-of-52 from the free-throw line (67.3 percent).

Willie Green and Jared Dudley reverted to being nonfactors offensively, shooting a combined 3-of-13 from the field and 2-of-8 from deep.

Five Nets players scored in double figures.

Stat of the game: With the loss, the Clippers are now 5-6 against Eastern Conference teams. No Western Conference team has lost more games against the East.

Up next: The Clippers wrap up their seven-game trip on Saturday against the John Wall-led Washington Wizards (9-11).