WASHINGTON (AP) — Chris Paul called it a "must-win." Blake Griffin deemed it a "Game 7," which, technically, it was.
Like many weary teams before them, the Los Angeles Clippers could have mentally checked out when faced with the final game of a long road trip. Instead, they shared the ball impeccably and wrapped up a tougher-than-it-should've-been East Coast swing Saturday night with a 113-97 win over the Washington Wizards.
"We wanted to try to turn this from an OK trip into a good trip," Paul said. "There was a lot of factors. It's a long flight back home, and we've got a lot of sore losers on this team."
Los Angeles never trailed and had assists on 27 of 39 field goals, including 16 of 21 in the first half. Paul finished with 38 points and 12 assists, and the Clippers shot 56 percent to conclude a 4-3 journey that included games against six Eastern Conference teams, leaving them 6-6 on the season against the pedestrian East and 10-3 against the mighty West.
"This was important to close out," Griffin said. "We kind of looked at it as like a Game 7 for us, being on the road. Game 7, got to win. I thought we responded well."
Griffin had 16 points and nine rebounds and was particularly vocal, keeping his teammates focused on the game at hand. The Clippers, on the road since Dec. 2, had already logged more than 6,000 miles on the trip.
"Blake Griffin, every timeout, kept saying, 'No letup. We're the tired team, let's not think about it. Let's keep playing,'" coach Doc Rivers said.
Paul was also at the forefront of the don't-let-up agenda. Sure, he was exaggerating when he called this a must-win in the wake of Thursday's loss at Brooklyn, but sometimes that's what it takes.
"We're going to make him say that every night," Rivers joked.
Paul went 11 for 14 from the field and made all 11 of his free throws. Jamal Crawford played the fifth man instead of the sixth man, making his first start since April 9, 2012, and finished with 17 points.
Jared Dudley, who apologized to fans on Twitter after a 1-for-7 shooting performance against Brooklyn, found his game and carried the Clippers early, going 4 for 5 in the first quarter and finishing with 16 points.
"He's a great shooter," Rivers said. "It's not going away forever. It just went away for a little while, and we wanted it to come back as soon as possible."