Game #14
STAPLES Center | Los Angeles, CA
January 22, 2012 | 12:30 PM (PST)
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TEAM 1 2 3 4 FINAL
11 26 21 33 91
27 22 27 27 103

Butler's Return Buoys Clippers
-Ryan Menezes

LOS ANGELES — Caron Butler didn’t want to miss a game this season. Missing nearly two-thirds of the Mavericks’ season and their run to a championship last year made that a goal in his first go-around with the Clippers.

But he couldn't ignore his hyperextended right knee, an injury suffered in Tuesday’s loss at Utah. Butler gutted it out for Wednesday’s win over his old mates from Dallas, but wasn’t going to play through the pain Friday against Minnesota.

The Clippers training staff wasn’t going to let him, either. Their “better safe than sorry” mantra has been unwavering this season. Already, Chris Paul (six games missed), Mo Williams (three), Brian Cook (three) and Chauncey Billups (two) have been held out after suffering injuries during the season. Butler and the training staff made a joint decision that he would rest instead of play against the Timberwolves.

“You've got to play it on the safe side and be a little more cautious because of the compactness of the season,” Butler said. “It's for the long haul and it's about having quality over quantity and being efficient for a long haul of the season.”

Luckily for Butler, he didn’t have to miss multiple games. He returned Sunday against Toronto to put up 15 points on six-of-10 shooting.

His presence was crucial during a second-quarter stretch when the Raptors zone defense was causing problems for the Clippers. Butler hit two zone-busting shots to make sure Toronto wouldn’t get any closer than within seven points of the lead, and finished with 11 points in the quarter. The Clippers would cruise to a 103-91 win from there.

“It stabilized us,” Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said of Butler’s return. “We have another guy out there that can score the ball. He’s always real hot in the first half, we try to get him going as early as possible.”

After he had done his work, Butler was able to get some more rest. He played just 5:27 in the third quarter and sat out the entire fourth. After the game he said his knee injury, unrelated to the patella tendon surgery he had on the same knee last season, was feeling good.

“After missing so many games last year due to injury I wanted to come back and be efficient and make it through the season,” Butler said. “But I'm feeling great today.”

LOS ANGELES–After losing despite a double-digit fourth-quarter lead Friday, Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said his team needed to change its focus and execution.

In Sunday’s matinee matchup with the Toronto Raptors at Staples Center, the Clippers responded accordingly, defeating Toronto, 103-91, behind 26 points from Mo Williams and 16 rebounds from DeAndre Jordan.

The Clippers (9-5), playing their fifth game without injured point guard Chris Paul (strained left hamstring), set the tone with a dominant first quarter, outscoring the Raptors (4-13) by 16.

“As a team, we obviously weren’t happy with the outcome Friday, so we wanted to make sure we came out strong, right out of the gate,” said Clippers power forward Blake Griffin, who had 18 points and nine rebounds. “We took care of business on the defensive end. I think it was good to get that taste out of our mouth.”

Griffin and frontcourt mate, Jordan, combined for 17 points and 12 rebounds in the quarter and the Clippers never looked back. It was their second wire-to-wire victory in a week, one that saw the Raptors, who were missing injured center Andrea Bargnani (calf), match their season low for points in a quarter with 11 in the first.

Jordan finished with 16 points and two blocks to go along with his season-high 16 rebounds.

“I liked our activity defensively,” Del Negro said. “We held them to a good defensive field goal percentage (35.8%). We gave up too many offensive rebounds, we turned it over too much, but I thought we kept battling. “

Without Paul, L.A. started Randy Foye (15 points) in the backcourt with Chauncey Billups, who recorded 14 assists, matching his most since Dec. 2008.

“Chauncey’s going to read the game,” Del Negro said. “Sometimes we’re going to need him to be more aggressive offensively, but he picks his spots. We had a good rhythm offensively, so he was making plays for us.”

Part of the offensive rhythm was due to Caron Butler’s return from a one-game absence with a slightly hyper-extended right knee. Butler scored 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting, but more importantly opened things up for the others. Del Negro said it also helped to move guys like Williams and Ryan Gomes to their regular spots in the rotation.

Williams, who scored 25 or more points for the third consecutive game, helped keep a last ditch effort by the Raptors at bay with several key plays early in the fourth. He wound up with 19 points in the quarter, including a pull-up 3-pointer from about 4 feet behind the line.

“Guys are looking for him [Williams] and we’re running some sets through him a little bit,” Del Negro said. “And he’s been hot. He’s been making some tough shots.”


Griffin’s double-double streak was snapped at eight-straight games. He has 10 overall… Foye tied his career high with three blocked shots… It was the second time in Williams’ career that he had a streak of 25 points or more in three straight. The other came in 2008 when he was with the Cavaliers… Toronto’s offense came in averaging just 79 points per game without Bargnani… Reserves Leandro Barbosa and Linas Kleiza combined for 35 points, more than the entire starting unit… The Clippers made25 of their 40 free throws. The 40 attempts matched their season high, set two weeks ago against Milwaukee.

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