Clippers Coach Doc Rivers had implored his team to "embrace" how difficult it would be to defeat a Pistons team dealing with a five-game losing streak and struggling all season.
Sure enough, it wasn't until the fourth quarter the Clippers finally broke free from Detroit, and even then their 104-98 victory over the Pistons at the Palace of Auburn Hills on Wednesday night wasn't easy.
It took Jamal Crawford scoring 14 of his team-high 25 points in the fourth quarter for the Clippers to improve to 4-1 on a seven-game trip.
It also took Crawford coming up with a big block of a three-point attempt by Kentavious Caldwell-Pope late in the fourth that helped the Clippers build a 10-point lead en route to the victory.
And it took Chris Paul scoring 14 of his 23 points and handing out seven assists as the Clippers beat the Pistons for the seventh consecutive time.
"I told the guys before the game. I said winning a game in the NBA is hard," Rivers said. "It doesn't matter what a team's record is.
"They want to win. They're professionals. They want to break their streak. And it's going to be hard. I said, 'If you guys don't embrace that, we're going to lose the game.'"
Rivers said his team didn't embrace that concept for much of the game, with most of his players thinking, "We're just going to win the game."
That's probably why the Clippers trailed, 27-25, at the end of the first quarter, 51-48 at the half and 73-72 at the end of the third quarter.
But Rivers said his team competed in the second half, his bench doing most of the damage in the fourth quarter during a five-minute stretch in which the reserve unit of Crawford, Spencer Hawes, Jordan Farmar, Glen Davis and Hedo Turkoglu helped the Clippers build an 11-point lead.
"We couldn't get over the hump until the fourth quarter," Crawford said. "In games past, that may have been a loss. But we were able to get the win and now we can enjoy Thanksgiving."
But even when the Clippers opened a 93-82 lead in the fourth quarter, they still had problems putting the Pistons away.
When the Pistons cut the Clippers' lead to 93-91, Rivers leaped out of his seat and called a timeout with 2:39 left.
His team responded with a reverse layup from Blake Griffin (15 points, seven rebounds, seven assists) and a Paul three-pointer for a 98-91 lead.
Then Crawford blocked the shot by Caldwell-Pope, recovered the rebound and made a three-pointer for a 10-point lead that stood.
The win left the Clippers with two games left on their trip — at Houston on Friday and at Utah on Saturday.
"You're just not going to have it every night," Paul said.
"Tonight, it was one of those games, 'Just find a way to win.' A week from now it's just going to say win-loss."