-- MIAMI -- One by one, key contributors to the Los Angeles Clippers' latest triumph shuttled to the rear of the visitors locker room and planted their backs against a wall as reporters gathered to ask questions.
The scene essentially symbolizes what the season has come to for this embattled team. The blows -- self-inflicted or otherwise -- keep coming. Yet the Clippers keep dismissively shrugging off the disruptions and distractions, and they just keep providing answers with victories.
For those counting, that's now 18 victories in their past 22 games heading into Monday's visit to Philadelphia.
Why, Chris Paul, have the Clippers responded so well to a recent stretch of adversity on and off the court that might have completely shattered another team?
"Guys on our team got a lot of grit, a lot of perseverance," Paul said after Sunday's 100-93 victory over Miami. "In all honesty, there's nothing really that can happen that we haven't sort of seen. We talk about it, and then we move on."
And how, DeAndre Jordan, have the performances on the road over the past six weeks planted seeds of confidence that might ultimately help this team stack up with Golden State or San Antonio in the West?
"It helps us get ready for the playoffs," offered Jordan, whose team is 11-2 in its past 13 games on the road. "We have to continue to win tough games with guys out. So whenever we get a fully healthy team again, we'll be even stronger all the way down."
So when, coach Doc Rivers, do the mounting injuries and issues catch up to a team that has initially shown nothing short of a Teflon level of mental toughness through it all?
"I don't know, honestly," Rivers shot back. "I think we have a lot of experience at it. Maybe we're good at it. Nobody really talks about it. Once we get on the court, it's really about basketball."
Yes, the Clippers have taken refuge in a beautiful brand of basketball recently, with the latest evidence coming in Sunday's 100-93 victory against the Miami Heat. It was the continuation of what has been an intriguing pattern for this team, which on game days often features Rivers first addressing some level of controversy surrounding the team before tipoff. And then after the games, he breaks down how his team keeps finding ways to set aside the dilemmas and build on its win totals.
On Sunday, that cycle had Rivers confirming an earlier ESPN.com report that his son and Clippers point guard Austin Rivers would be sidelined four to six weeks to recover from a broken bone in his hand. Austin Rivers missed his second consecutive game after he suffered the injury Wednesday against Minnesota.
The Austin Rivers situation hits at a time when the Clippers are already without leading scorer and perennial All-Star Blake Griffin, who recently underwent a second surgery to repair a broken hand he injured during a fight with a team equipment manager last month in Toronto. There remains no definitive time frame for Griffin's return, and it's possible he could face league disciplinary action for his role in the altercation. Griffin has been out since Dec. 26, when he suffered a torn quadriceps tendon.
What the Clippers (34-17) do know is there's neither room for excuses nor sympathy as they try to remain in position for a top-four seed in the Western Conference, where the blazing pace has been set by the Warriors (46-4) and Spurs (43-8) entering this week's All-Star break.
The Clippers could have faltered when Griffin went down in late December, but they instead have gone 17-4 while managing without his 23.2 points and 8.7 rebounds in the lineup. They could have stumbled again when disgruntled reserve forward Josh Smith was jettisoned in a trade back to Houston late last month. But the Clippers regrouped again, streamlined the rotation and tightened their defense. They've posted the NBA's sixth-best defensive rating since Dec. 26 and third-best net rating overall in that span.
"It's a credit to Doc and his system," said Jamal Crawford, who has scored at least 20 points in four straight games. "It's a credit to us believing in what he's doing, believing in each other. If we just keep bonding together -- we're doing an excellent job of that. Coach does an excellent job keeping us focused. You can't prepare for injuries. But when it happens, you have to hang together."
Paul, Jordan and J.J. Redick have each increased their production across the board over the past two months without Griffin, but the team's recent victories have required much more balance. That was the case as well in Miami, where the Clippers relied on the league's second-highest scoring bench to overcome a sluggish opening from the starters.
The Clippers missed 13 of their first 14 shots against the Heat, but trailed by just six points late in the first quarter. It was Crawford and the second unit that sparked the rally that gave Los Angeles a halftime lead. Afterward Rivers referred to the performance as the ultimate team win because no individual player could get much going early in the game.
In much the same way they've overcome everything else this season, the Clippers did it collectively. Paul and Redick eventually found a rhythm and combined for 36 points, Jordan added 11 rebounds and three blocks, and the Crawford-led unit of reserves outscored the Heat's bench 46-25.
"I love it," Doc Rivers said of his team's recent play. "We just don't talk about injuries. We refuse to make an excuse. We told them, 'Whatever happens, we've come to win. That's the only thing you've got to think about.' And I think our guys have done a good job of that."
Paul acknowledged it's going to be a challenge to maintain their progress without Austin Rivers' defensive energy and aggressive offense to add depth at both guard spots. Doc Rivers didn't rule out the possibility the Clippers could make a roster move by next week's trade deadline to bolster the backcourt.
But for now, the formula will stay simple.
"Whoever's healthy will play," Rivers said.
"Before the game, we just say, 'By any means necessary,'" Paul added. "Once again, unfortunately, we're sort of used to this -- guys going down. And again, we just have to pick it up."
The Clippers have had their backs against the proverbial wall all season.
That position hasn't broken them. It's only given them balance.