POSTGAME REPORT: CLIPPERS 89, HAWKS 76 - 11/11/12

LOS ANGELES – Once again, the Clippers showed why they are one of the deepest teams in the league as their second unit turned a five-point lead after three quarters into an 89-76 victory over the Atlanta Hawks Sunday afternoon at the Staples Center.

The Clippers (5-2) won their third consecutive game thanks to 35 bench points and stellar defensive effort. They forced a Hawks team that ranked second in the league in fewest turnovers coming into the game to cough up the ball 22 times.

“I thought we kept battling,” Head Coach Vinny Del Negro said. “I thought we were a little bit stagnant offensively and finally in the middle of the third quarter, the ball started moving a little better and then we worked off the energy and activity on the defensive end. We created some good plays for ourselves offensively, from our defense, which was great.”

The two teams were fairly even through three quarters, trading the lead 20 times to go along with eight ties. But the Clippers scored 20 of the first 25 points in the fourth quarter to pull away and send the Hawks (2-3) away with their second loss in a row.


Along with turning the Hawks over, the Clippers also did a great job contesting their opponents’ shots. Atlanta shot just 41.7 % from the field with Al Horford the only starter who shot 50% or better, hitting five of his 10 shot attempts for only 11 points.

“That’s the kind of defense you have to have to close out a game like this,” Clippers star Blake Griffin said. “I think our defense is what did it for us down the stretch.”

The Clippers trailed by as much as five before righting the ship, building a 20-point cushion with 3:21 left in the fourth quarter.

Difference Maker: Matt Barnes. Barnes pestered the Hawks on the defensive end throughout the game, particularly in the fourth quarter to help spark the 20-5 run.

He came around Ivan Johnson’s blind side on the block and snatched the ball out of his hands for a breakaway dunk with 10:11 left in the game. He victimized Josh Smith with a similar play three minutes later that led to a two-on-one breakaway with Chris Paul. Barnes passed the ball to a driving Paul who dished it back to Barnes for a left-handed flush.

“I think that’s the key to our team,” Barnes said. “In transition we are one of the best in the league and offensively we’ve got talent but if we can consistently get stops on the defensive end we can be a complete team.”

Turning Point: With 2:27 left in the third quarter, Caron Butler drained a 21-foot jump shot from the left-wing and drew the fourth foul on Smith, who was having an outstanding game up to that point. The Clippers finished the third on a 6-0 run to lead 65-60.

The second unit then continued to show why they are one of the best in the league, building the lead up to eight points by the time Smith checked back into the game with 10:23 left. By then it was too late as the Clippers reserves ballooned the lead to 14 points four minutes later.

Stat Line of the Day: Griffin led the way for the Clippers, scoring 16 points and grabbing six rebounds and four assists. He made seven of his 11 shot attempts, including an 18-foot jumper from the left wing to give the Clippers a 39-37 halftime lead.

More Stats: 

Paul. The Clippers point guard scored 15 points and had a game-high eight assists, just missing out on his fifth double-double of the season.

Eric Bledsoe: He led the reserves with 12 points in 19 minutes. He also continued to have a nose for the ball defensively with two steals and one blocked shot.

Jamal Crawford. The former Sixth Man of the Year had a solid effort against one of his former teams. He scored 11 points and hit one 3-pointer to go along with two assists and a game-high three steals.

Smith. He led the Hawks with 13 points and had two blocked shots but his fourth foul late in the third quarter derailed him offensively. Smith made just two of his final six shot attempts.

Hot: The Clippers free throw shooting. The team did not have many attempts, but they made the most of them going a perfect 8-for-8 from the charity stripe. Griffin and DeAndre Jordan each finished 2-for-2. It was the first time the Clippers made at least eight free throws without missing since March 1, 2011 against the Kings.

Not: The Hawks free throw shooting. Smith missed all four of his attempts at the line to lead a 7-for-16 (43.8 %) effort by the Hawks at the line.

Quotables:

On Clippers’ defensive effort:

Paul: "The one thing we keep harping on in the locker room is that throughout an 82 game season, you’re not going to make shots every night. But what makes teams great and what makes teams successful is being able to rely on your defense.”

Bledsoe: “We just play together. For the most part, we have the same defensive instincts. Everybody knows what everyone else is capable of and what we have to do. That’s a good feeling when you know your teammates have your back.”

On the fourth quarter:

Horford: "That was the first time that happened this year, where we had a letdown in the fourth. They made a run and we didn’t really handle it as well as we could have. Give them credit, they took over the game. We need to be a little smarter with the ball. We’ve been doing great all year, but it is something that we have to clean up.”

Notes: Chauncey Billups (left Achilles tendon rehab), Grant Hill (right knee bone bruise), and Trey Thompkins (left knee bone bruise) did not play for the Clippers…The Clippers failed to score 100 points for the first time this season. Their six straight games with 100 points or more to start the season tied a franchise record… Jordan has scored 49 points and grabbed 24 rebounds in his last three games…Willie Green scored two points and dished out two assists in his first game against his former team…The Clippers had their fifth consecutive sellout crowd of the season, pushing their consecutive sellout streak to 55 games.