Game #12
STAPLES Center | Los Angeles, CA
January 18, 2012 | 7:30 PM (PST)
TV: Fox Sports West | ESPN
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TEAM 1 2 3 4 FINAL
27 24 20 18 89
31 21 19 20 91

LOS ANGELES -- Chris Paul was yelling “Big Shot!” -- Chauncy Billups’ ever-clutch nickname -- as Billups walked back to the bench, once again living up to his moniker. Paul was drowned out by the sellout Staples Center crowd, who witnessed the latest in a series of heroics the veteran guard has had a knack for making during his career.

Mo Williams Near Perfect in Return to Lineup - By Eric Patten

Mo Williams squatted down at midcourt with his arms spread out along the red pad atop the scorer’s table at Staples Center, looking somewhat like a plane in a holding pattern.

He waited to enter the game for the first time since playing through a sore right foot for 21 minutes a week ago against the Miami Heat. After sitting out three straight games, including Tuesday’s 29-point loss at Utah, Williams made a near-perfect return.

He scored in bundles, sparked the fast break, directed traffic, guarded former Sixth Man of the Year Jason Terry, and in general helped energize a Clippers team that looked lethargic at times a night earlier.

“This is the third game of a back-to-back-to-back and after watching those guys yesterday, I knew it was going to be tough on them today,” Williams said. “I just wanted to come and give us some energy to help the team out instead of watching those guys out there busting their behind.”

Williams checked in at the 5:26 mark of the first quarter and two minutes later nailed 3-pointer from the left wing as the Mavericks lazily double-teamed Blake Griffin in the post. The shot initiated a 7-for-7 first half from the field that included a runner drifting across the lane to his right, a baseline fade away over Delonte West, and a two-dribble jumper from just inside the 3-point line.

“He came in with instant offense,” said forward Reggie Evans, another key member of the Clippers bench. “He wasn’t over doing it and he just took his opportunity and took advantage of it. Me coming into the game, I just like to get him open so he can get switched out on my man and hit his jumper and things like that.”

Williams scored 18 points in the first half, but it wasn’t just about his scoring punch. He broke down the Mavericks defense, which had held opponents to 86 points or fewer in six consecutive games, and created shots for his teammates. In the second quarter as Dallas’ help defender arrived to cut off Williams in the lane, he flipped the ball to DeAndre Jordan for an alley oop.

Before that he tracked down a loose ball at midcourt and as he collided with Terry managed to flip it ahead to Randy Foye, who lobbed it to Griffin for a dunk.

“We know how good of a player Mo is and how much he means to the team,” Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said. “It was a big lift for us, no question.”

After missing all three shots in the third quarter, Williams caught fire again in the fourth. With the game tied at 71, he dropped in a floater and ball-faked Terry on the next possession before dribbling into a 14-footer, personally giving the Clippers a four-point lead. He finished with 26 points, including eight in the fourth quarter, on 11-of-15 shooting with four assists and two steals.

It was the fourth highest point total in Williams’ 34 games with the Clippers, accounting for nearly 30% of the team’s offensive output.

“I’m always the type of person when I get the opportunity I’m going to try and relish it and take advantage of it in the framework of winning; in the framework of team.”

After the game Williams said he did not want to make his injured foot an excuse. He wore special in-soles to help protect the injury and reluctantly switched shoes from the Kobe Bryant signature lowtop to the Lebron James VIII, both Nike products.

“I felt like I could go,” Williams said. “I gave [his foot] a good workout yesterday, so I went to bed and slept really well knowing that I had a good shot of playing today if didn’t have any setbacks when I woke up.”

Billups’ 3-pointer with one second left gave the Clippers a dramatic, 91-89, win over the defending NBA champion Dallas Mavericks.

Billups was almost the Clippers’ undoing after his turnover in the final minute led to a Jason Terry 3-pointer. Terry followed that up with another triple that turned a five-point Clippers lead into a one-point lead for the Mavericks.

“It feels great, especially after not particularly playing so well and having that big turnover,” Billups said. “It feels good to make a shot and kind of make up for that.”

Terry’s pair of threes nearly spelled the Clippers’ doom, but there was time for Mr. Big Shot to make one more play. Billups sent a short inbounds pass to Blake Griffin, received the ball back, stopped just short of the arc and didn’t hesitate as he rose up for his game-winner.

“I was a little surprised that I was that open,” Billups said. “I got some separation, Blake made a great play with the handoff. I just made a good shot.”

Paul watched helplessly, out for the third straight game with a strained left hamstring, as the Clippers built and blew leads, which only set the stage for the exciting finish.

Despite Paul’s absence, the Clippers’ guards made sure that their start wouldn’t be as sluggish as it was a night earlier in Utah.

Billups, once again starting at point guard, hit four of his first five shots for 11 first-quarter points. Mo Williams, back from a three-game absence with a sore right foot, came off the bench and stayed hot throughout the game. It took until the 4:49 mark of the third quarter for Williams to miss a shot; by then he was well on his way to a season-high 26 points.

DeAndre Jordan played a hand in keeping the Mavericks at bay as well, racking up a season-high 19 points. Jordan’s and-one layup through a foul from Dirk Nowitzki put the Clippers up seven in the third quarter. Griffin followed that with a fast break dunk that extended their largest lead of the night to nine.

But the Mavs got right back to work chipping at the lead, and it was back to a tie game by the end of the third quarter.

The Clippers looked like they would coast to a win after going up five in the final minutes. The veteran Mavs regained the lead, then gave it away, and still had a final chance with one second left. But center Ian Mahinmi couldn’t gather a lob near the basket and the final buzzer sounded.

“We just have to close,” Mavericks point guard Jason Kidd said. “We left the door open.”

As the game went through its twists and turns late, Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro felt comforted to have the presence of Billups among his young team, especially on the last night of a back-to-back-to-back.

“That’s why he’s here,” Del Negro said. “It’s why we wanted him. He has great leadership and great experience. With the young front line that we have it’s important that we have some guys that have experience, that are stable out there, that can control the situation out there. Chauncey does that as well as anybody in the game.”

The Clippers were a ship on the verge of keeling during their three-game swing. After a stellar first-half against the Nets on Monday, they were outplayed in the second half and nearly blew an 18-point lead before getting whacked for four quarters against the Jazz in Salt Lake City on Tuesday. Wednesday, the Clippers had the energy they lacked a night prior, but it almost didn’t last.

Billups’ presence certainly helped. He was unfazed, having been in that position many times before during his 15 years in the league, and passed on that calm to his team.

“I don’t like when people add pressure to the last two minutes of the game,” Billups said. “I just think that if you’re professional and you play hard every night, you should play the last two minutes like the first two minutes. Don’t put any extra pressure on yourself. I thought that we did that. I thought we stayed composed.”

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