|CLIPPERS WIN OVERTIME THRILLER, LOSE BILLUPS TO INJURY - |
Eric Patten - (@ericpatten)
The Clippers keep coming together, no matter the adversity or how many pieces enter or exit the lineup.
Faced with an early 15-point deficit and the loss of veteran leader Chauncey Billups to a left Achilles injury, L.A. battled back to beat the Orlando Magic, 107-102, in overtime at Amway Center.
Point guard Chris Paul took command of the game in the second half and overtime and Caron Butler dropped in four of his final six shots to overtake the Magic (15-10). It’s the first time the Clippers (15-7) have won in Orlando since February 2006.
“We just played hard and played together,” Paul told Prime Ticket. “We had guys hit big shots when we needed them.”
No shots were bigger than the final three field goals of the night.
Paul totaled 29 points, including 3-of-3 from beyond the arc and 8-of-8 from the free throw line, with eight assists, and seven rebounds. Butler had 14 points, 11 in the second half and overtime. Blake Griffin added 18 points and 10 rebounds for his 14th double-double of the year.
Billups sustained the injury with 5:48 left in the fourth quarter when he made a quick move to chase down a ball back-tapped by DeAndre Jordan. He scored 18 points, making five 3-pointers.
There was definitely a subdued feeling in the locker room after the game. Paul and Blake Griffin spoke softly and were devoid of the enthusiasm that might be expected following a gritty road win over a playoff-caliber opponent.
“In the second half we saw one of our captains and leaders go down,” Butler said on Prime Ticket. “And we just had to stay with it.”
Del Negro addressed the media in the hallway, calling the victory somewhat “bittersweet.”
“[Billups is] going to get re-evaluated tomorrow,” Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said. “He’s got an Achilles injury.”
Still, on a night when Howard had five dunks and 21 points in the first half and Jason Richardson out-scored his 11-point season average in the first quarter with 12, the Clippers showed the kind of resilient effort that will be paramount moving forward.
They held Howard to just eight points over the last 29 minutes of the game. And while the Magic center finished with a game-high 33 points and 14 rebounds, Jordan and forward Reggie Evans battled him admirably. Both Clipper big men fouled out in overtime, but not before combining for 17 rebounds (10 offensive).
At the end of regulation, Paul and Jameer Nelson each made a pair of free throws before Paul split two defenders and made a right-handed layup around Howard to put the Clippers up 93-91. Two possessions later, Richardson (20 points) gave the Magic a one-point lead on a scoop layup and free throw after a foul by Williams with 1:01 to go.
But with an opportunity to perhaps put the game away in regulation, Butler stole the ball from Richardson on the Magic’s next possession, leading to two free throw attempts for Griffin, who had made his first five, as he was fouled by Nelson on a breakaway.
Griffin made the first, but missed the second. And Nelson missed a fadeaway over Jordan on the other end as the fourth quarter expired.
Griffin, a 48.6% free throw shooter on the year, finished 6-of-7 from the line.
“I just went in and shot a lot yesterday on our off day,” he said. “I switched it up [adding a few dribbles to his free-throw routine] and worked with Coach Del Negro and Coach [Marc] Iavaroni. I was taking a couple dribbles, so hopefully that helps.”
Former point guard sensation Jason “White Chocolate” Williams and new Detroit Tigers first baseman Prince Fielder were among the fans in attendance… The Clippers trailed 100-96 in overtime and came back to win. It was the first time they have broken “Lawler’s Law” this season… It’s the third time the Clippers have ended a losing streak of nine games or longer against an opponent in the last eight days. They snapped a 9-game losing streak in Denver on Jan. 29 and a 16-game losing streak at Utah on Feb. 1… Nelson scored 15 points to go with 12 assists for Orlando. He missed the previous six games with concussion-like symptoms.
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