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Clippers topple Hornets, 128-109, with well-rounded effort on both ends for third-straight win

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It was the second time in as many games the team has held an opponent to 40 percent or worse from the field.

NBA: Charlotte Hornets at Los Angeles Clippers Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Around 18 hours before the Clippers tipped off against the Charlotte Hornets on Tuesday night, Head Coach Doc Rivers said the team was showing signs of improvement defensively.

“We are trending back to being a good defensive team,” he said prior to practice Monday.

Well, for the second time in as many games, the Clippers held an opponent in check on that end of the floor, and pulled out a convincing, 128-109, victory at Staples Center to move eight games above .500.

The Hornets (19-21) shot 40 percent from the field, which was the sixth lowest shooting percentage for a Clippers (24-16) opponent all season. Two of those instances have come in back-to-back outings during the Clippers’ three-game winning streak, while the previous four occurred in October.

On Tuesday, however, it wasn’t just the defense that saw an uptick from a suddenly revived Clippers team. Forwards Danilo Gallinari and Tobias Harris as well as reserve duo Montrezl Harrell and Lou Williams all finished with 20 points or more. It’s the second time this season the quartet has done so, and both times were in the last seven days.

Harrell, who had his 10th double-double with 23 points, 11 rebounds and five assists, told Jaime Maggio postgame: “We come in with the right mindset and come in with the right game plan both offensively and defensively and we carry it out to the best of our ability. Tonight we played as hard as we could.”

Williams chipped in a game-high 27 points on an uber-efficient 9-of-14 shooting to go along with 10 assists, while Harris notched 23 and Gallinari had 20, including a dozen in the first quarter.

The Clippers weathered a hot start from Charlotte, in the midst of a six-game west coast swing, with Gallinari going 5-for-6 from the field and Marcin Gortat opening with four points, four rebounds and two blocks. But about midway through the opening frame, it appeared the Clippers were locked in.

They went on a 15-3 run to close the first quarter and never trailed after being down 16-14 in the early going. The Hornets managed just 36 points over a 21-minute stretch of the second half, and All-Star guard Kemba Walker was held to 6-of-18 shooting.

Avery Bradley, Patrick Beverley and rookie Shai Gilgeous-Alexander drew the Walker assignment through much of the night, but it was the overall team defense to zero in on the jittery, high-scoring star, that effectively frustrated him into tough looks over the course of his 31 minutes.

NOTES

Boxing legend Manny Pacquiao was in attendance for Filipino Heritage Night at Staples Center… The Clippers have won 14 of the last 16 matchups against Charlotte… They went 7-for-15 from the 3-point line in each half, finishing 14-of-30 overall… Gilgeous-Alexander set a career high with four blocked shots and the Clippers set a team season-high with 11 overall… Second-year guard Malik Monk led the Hornets with 24 points in 21 minutes off the bench…

THEY GOT NEXT

The Clippers take a one-off trip to Denver to face the West’s best. The Nuggets upended the Heat in Miami, 103-99, on Tuesday with Nikola Jokic breaking a tie game with 2.3 seconds remaining. It’s the first road matchup in the season series after the team’s split the first two meetings in L.A. Although Pepsi Center has long been a place of misery for the Clippers, they have actually gone 3-3 in their last six games in the Mile High City. Tipoff is at 6 p.m. PT on Prime Ticket.