Chris Paul and the rest of the Los Angeles Clippers' starters thought they were done after three quarters. Despite a 28-point lead, they were wrong.
Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and J.J. Redick staved off a rally fueled by the Los Angeles Lakers' bench, and the Clippers won 94-84 on Friday night to end a three-game skid and win their eighth straight against their Staples Center co-tenants.
"We've had to do that before," said Paul, who had 23 points and six assists. "But it's not about the starters having to come back in. It's about us as a team closing games out and we have to get better at that."
Kobe Bryant scored 12 points for the Lakers in his NBA-record 16th and final Christmas Day game. He played 26 minutes and sat out the entire fourth quarter while the Lakers outscored the Clippers 27-9.
Bryant announced on Nov. 29 that he will retire after this season, his 20th in the NBA. He has a record 395 points on Christmas Day.
"There's a little mixed emotions, honestly," Bryant said. "I mean, I'm so used to playing on Christmas. It's kind of become a part of our family routine.
"I'm just very, very thankful to be able to play this many games on Christmas," he added. "Growing up and watching the Bulls and the Knicks and all those great games on Christmas Day, having been a part of this for so many years has been cool."
Redick had 14 points and Jordan had nine points and 14 rebounds for the Clippers. They have won 12 of their last 13 meetings with the Lakers.
Rookie D'Angelo Russell, the second overall pick in the draft, had a team-high 16 points off the bench for the Lakers.
The Clippers took an 85-57 lead into the fourth, and both coaches rested all of their starters until the Lakers started to make a move led by Russell, Julius Randle and Marcelo Huertas.
Randle scored nine points in a 2:56 span -- including a 3-pointer that cut the deficit to 87-72 with 7:50 to play. He finished with 11 points.
The Clippers missed 15 of their first 18 shots in the final period. Clippers coach Doc Rivers was forced to pull his reserves, while Lakers coach Byron Scott kept his out there and left Bryant on the sidelines -- even as the Los Angeles crowd chanted Bryant's name.
"At that particular time, when it got to about the 6-minute mark, he had been sitting for quite a while," Scott said. "So I wasn't about to put him pack in then -- pretty easy decision, to be honest."
The Lakers got within 89-82 on a pair of free throws by Randle with 4:01 remaining, but then the Clippers pulled away with a 3-pointer by Wesley Johnson and a 16-footer by Paul.
HURTING ALL NIGHT
Bryant missed all three shots he took in the first quarter and then scored nine points in the second, including a pair of 3-pointers 29 seconds apart to help slice a 17-point deficit to 47-37 with 4:14 left.
"Tonight, my bones just couldn't get loose," said Bryant, who turned 37 in August. "I was hurting all night, but I still felt like I played well and played a solid all-around game for the minutes that I was in there. So that was encouraging."
Clippers: Doc Rivers played for the Knicks on Christmas Day in 1992, making 1 of 4 shots and scoring seven points in an 89-77 loss at Chicago. He also coached the Celtics on Christmas every year from 2008 through 2013. ... G Austin Rivers was bummed about missing his second straight game because of a sprained right ankle -- and the timing of it." Man, I wanted to play so bad tonight, and I came this close," he said, holding two fingers close together. "I've never played in a Christmas Day game. But I just can't cut really quickly right now. It hurts." ... F Paul Pierce has played on Christmas Day for four different teams in the past four years, including Boston, Brooklyn and Washington.
Lakers: Bryant's best game on Dec. 25 was in 2004, when he had 42 points in a 104-102 overtime loss to Miami at Staples Center. ... The Lakers are 6-10 on Christmas when Bryant has played, including 0-4 against Miami. ... Oscar Robertson held the previous career record for points on Christmas with 377 before Bryant broke it in 2012. He sat out the previous two years because of injuries. ... This was the second time the Lakers played the Clippers on Christmas, having won 85-75 in 1991 at the Forum with 20 points from A.C. Green and 18 from Scott. ... The Lakers have played on Christmas every year since 1998, when their season opener was delayed until Feb. 5 because of a lockout that reduced the schedule to 50 games.
Clippers: At Utah on Saturday night.
Lakers: At Memphis on Sunday night.