CLIPPERS FOURTH QUARTER SPARKS WIN
Eric Patten (@ericpatten) | 4/22/12

LOS ANGELES–With 8:38 left in the fourth quarter Sunday, the 20-win New Orleans Hornets had the playoff-bound Clippers on the ropes.

Twenty seconds earlier, reserve center Gustavo Ayon made a layup and Mo Williams had just lost the ball out of bounds, leading to a timeout. New Orleans led 89-78 when Marco Belinelli missed a 17-footer on the next possession. The Clippers would never trail by double-digits again.

As it turned out, the Clippers came from 13 points down the fourth quarter behind what Reggie Evans referred to as “a slow progression.” It’s not like the Clippers stopped New Orleans on every possession, they just stopped them often enough to bludgeon them with a wildly effective offense.

“In the end, there weren’t really one or two plays that stuck out,” said Evans, who played 11:25 all in the fourth quarter and grabbed four rebounds. “It kind of progressed where they’d come back and score. We almost went back and forth, but we managed to get some stops and go run with it.”

The Clippers ran off a 29-9 stretch to close the game. Chris Paul scored 13 of the team’s 33 points in the fourth quarter and made five of his season-high eight steals. The defense, which forced eight New Orleans turnovers, produced in way that it hadn’t for the first 40 minutes.

“We turned it up on the defensive end,” Paul said. “We got stops and we were able to get out in transition.”

The most impressive play on the fast break, arguably came at the early stages of the Clippers run. Paul swiped the ball from Hornets point guard Greivis Vasquez and they both hit the floor pursuing the loose ball. Paul somehow wrestled it away, twisted his body, and threw a two-handed bounce pass from his backside around Vasquez’s head. Clippers speedster Eric Bledsoe caught the pass in stride and threw down a one-handed dunk, igniting the crowd and pulling the Clippers to within seven.

Paul made a 13-foot runner following two free throws by Xavier Henry, but the comeback didn’t reach full steam until the 4:32 mark when Randy Foye knocked down his first of three 3-pointers in the period.

“Chris managed to get buckets or hit somebody like Randy for open buckets,” Evans said. “On defense we were just aggressive, helping the guards out, making sure we rebounded the basketball, me and Blake.

“Randy got hot, so that was wonderful.”

Foye’s first shot from the left wing cut the deficit to four. His next one, after a miss on the other end by Eric Gordon, came off a drive from Paul where the Hornets defense collapsed and the point guard kicked it back out to Foye on the right wing.

“[Foye’s performance was] amazing,” Paul said. “He hit big shot after big shot. We were able to get into the lane and make them converge and he was just knocking them down.”

Monty Williams immediately called timeout after Foye’s second 3-pointer and Vasquez answered with a tough turnaround jumper on the right side of the lane. Two possessions later, Jason Smith missed a 19-footer and came up hobbling after appearing to twist his ankle. The Clippers pushed the ball up the floor and as Williams called for an intentional foul to halt the fast break, Paul timed it and threw the ball toward the basket from half court as Vasquez attempted to wrap him up. The official ruled it a 3-point attempt and Paul made all three, giving the Clippers their first lead since early in the third quarter.

Paul stole the ball from Gordon, drove to the rim, and kicked back to a trailing Mo Williams, who skipped a bounce pass to Foye in the corner in front of the New Orleans bench. Foye nailed the shot, extending the lead to 98-93.

“It was a tough fourth quarter,” Vasquez said. “I thought we handed them the game tonight. I take responsibility for careless turnovers, where Chris [Paul] took the ball from me.”

Vasquez answered again with a layup on the other end, but the Clippers pushed the ball up the floor and Paul found Blake Griffin, who had four rebounds in the quarter, for an alley oop slam along the left baseline. The two-handed dunk gave L.A. a 100-95 lead and while they needed seven free throws from Paul and Evans to ice it, the play by Griffin seemingly sucked the life out of New Orleans.

“The last eight [minutes] we got the stops defensively and our second unit came in and did a great job,” Griffin said. “Eric Bledsoe, Reggie [Evans], Kenyon [Martin] all those guys. And obviously, Randy Foye coming in hot saved us.”

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