Game #35
Toyota Center | Houston, TX
March 4, 2012 | 4:00 PM (PST)
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25 20 32 20 8 105
30 17 27 23 6 103
  • MARCH 5
    Chris Paul drove against the Rockets’ Courtney Lee, cutting across the lane to the right block. In one motion Paul slammed on the brakes, and dropped in a one-handed jump hook over Houston’s defensive ace.

    The basket gave the Clippers a one-point lead with 50.6 seconds left and the defense stifled Houston’s next three possessions for a dramatic 105-103 overtime win Sunday at Toyota Center in Houston.

    It was a much-needed victory for a variety of reasons. It kept the Clippers (22-13) in first place in the Pacific Division by mere percentage points over the Lakers. It helped the team avoid falling into a logjam at the middle of the Western Conference playoff race. And finally, it provided a confidence boost at the halfway point of their current six-game road trip.

    “[Winning] was very crucial because this is a long road trip that we’re on,” said Paul, who finished with a game-high 28 points and 10 assists.

    Paul had a chance to win the game in regulation. With the score tied and 18.1 seconds remaining, he dribbled down the clock from up top, went right, crisscrossed, bobbled the ball against tough defense from Lee and launched a fade away about a half second after the buzzer sounded.

    Caron Butler (14 points) put the Clippers up 100-99 on the second possession of overtime, but after Lee’s long jumper over Kenyon Martin gave the Rockets (21-17) a three-point lead, it looked like the Clippers were doomed to lose for the fifth time in the last seven games.

    But L.A. had an answer, as they so often did in a matchup that featured 24 lead changes and 20 ties. Twelve seconds after Lee’s basket, Paul found Blake Griffin cutting baseline for a two-handed slam. Griffin finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds, but the overtime dunk was his first made field goal in more than 26 minutes.

    Kevin Martin missed a 21-footer on Houston’s next possession and Paul followed with what amounted to the game-winning shot over Lee.

    “The only thing I kept thinking about after regulation was who at home was watching League Pass and calling me a dummy,” Paul said. “That’s what I do when I’m watching games and I see a guy not even get a shot up at the end of regulation. The guys at home were saying, ‘This dummy didn’t even get a shot up.’ I was calling myself a dummy and you can ask the guys on our bench that.”

    To a large extent, it was the Clippers’ defense that secured the game as much as Paul’s offensive prowess. They held the Rockets to 1-for-10 shooting during a stretch in the middle of the fourth quarter. Mo Williams came up with a big steal, ripping the ball away from Kevin Martin toward the end of regulation. And Griffin swiped an inbounds pass intended for Samuel Dalembert with Houston vying for the lead in the waning seconds of overtime.

    “We got stops when we needed to,” Paul said. “Luckily, the defense bailed us out.”

    Offensively, L.A. benefitted from six players scoring in double figures, including 15 points from Randy Foye and Williams and Martin combining for 24 off the bench. DeAndre Jordan, in the lineup despite flu-like symptoms, had eight points and 11 rebounds. It was Jordan’s first game in his hometown of Houston this season.

    With Houston grabbing an early five-point lead, Williams kept the Clippers close after checking in late in the first quarter. He made his first shot, a 3-pointer from the left wing, knocked down two mid-range jumpers, and made all free throws after being fouled by Lee on a shot from behind the arc.

    Still, the Rockets controlled most of the first half behind Kevin Martin’s 12 points and Dalembert’s 14 points and eight rebounds. Dalembert, who played a large portion of the fourth quarter and overtime in foul trouble, finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds, while Martin had a team-high 25.

    Paul took over in the second half and overtime, scoring 22 points, but Kenyon Martin also played a key role in keeping the Clippers afloat. He knocked down three jumpers from the perimeter, something that he’s done with regularity on the road trip, grabbed seven rebounds in 27 minutes, and played superb defense.

    “His defense is something that we’ve needed,” Paul said. “It’s contagious. We’ve all got to follow suit.”


    Williams is 8-for-14 on trip from 3-point range. He was 1-for-3 on Sunday… Griffin had two dunks in the game; a left-handed slam in the first half around Luis Scola and the two-handed stuff in overtime. He leads the NBA with 101 dunks on the season… Houston made 10 of its 20 3-point attempts, including a perfect 3-for-3 from Lee… The win snapped a two-game losing streak at Toyota Center…

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