FINAL | March 23, 2013 | STAPLES Center | Los Angeles, CA

Clippers

24

25

26

20

95

LOGO

25

22

23

31

101

 

ERIC PATTEN

LOS ANGELES – In a playoff race where third through fifth place is separated by essentially a half-game in the standings it was only fitting that Saturday night’s finish between the Clippers and Nets would come down to the final minute.

Chris Paul, as he so often does, knocked down a tie-breaking jumper with 2:02 to go and perhaps sealed the game with a 3-point play falling away and drawing a foul on Deron Williams to lead the Clippers to a 101-95 win over Brooklyn at Staples Center.

The win was essential. The Nuggets and Grizzlies won earlier in the night and the Clippers (48-22) needed to keep pace. They did just that after a fourth quarter rally.

The Nets (40-29) led by as many as eight in the waning minutes of the third and entered the final 12 minutes with a 75-70 advantage. That’s when the Clippers ramped up the intensity.  

“A lot of these games we’ve been letting get away from us,” Paul said. “Tonight we found a way to get stops when we needed and we got some buckets when we needed them.”

The Clippers received contributions from all five players on the court down the stretch. Caron Butler saved a defensive rebound to Paul along the baseline, DeAndre Jordan, who had 13 points, 12 rebounds and three blocked shots in 35 minutes, defended All-Star center Brook Lopez, Blake Griffin preserved a possession with an offensive rebound over Gerald Wallace, and Jamal Crawford jumped a pass by Williams that led to a two-handed breakaway dunk to give L.A. a four-point lead with 48 seconds to go.

“That was big,” Paul said. “I had no clue what was happening. You know, I was guarding [Williams] and I knew they were about to run UCLA action and send him to the post. I heard the crowd go nuts and I saw Jamal taking off for a dunk. I think that was the biggest play of the game because it gave us a four-point lead, just enough separation to get the win.”

Crawford scored 13 points off the bench and added two steals. But Paul was the stalwart. He had 29 points, his most this month, 11 assists and three rebounds. And more importantly made a majority of the plays down the stretch. He finished with 17 points in the fourth quarter, including seven in the final 22 seconds, and had two assists, accounting for 21 of the Clippers’ 31 points in the period.

“You feel very comfortable with Chris with the basketball,” Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said. “Chris was very aggressive and very productive in the biggest moments. Sometimes you almost take it for granted because he does it so often.”

Willie Green added 15 points for the Clippers, while Griffin had 11 points and seven rebounds. Eric Bledsoe, who missed the past five games with a sore calf, played 12 minutes with seven points. He also converted a 3-point play to give the Clippers an 82-80 lead in the fourth, their first lead since the second quarter.

“I think offensively we played well, but those last five minutes we just needed stops,” Jordan said. “We got them. We had a couple of lapses here and there, but overall, I think that we had a pretty good defensive game.”

The Clippers had 11 steals with Paul, Green, Crawford and Matt Barnes each getting a pair, and held the Nets to 20 points and 41% shooting in the fourth quarter. Lopez scored 18 points, fewer than any of the previous five matchups against Jordan.

“Lopez is obviously big, so we need some length on him,” Del Negro said. “Obviously, he’s a skilled big guy. [Jordan] battled him tonight.”

Three-point shooting kept the Clippers close in the first half. They made six of their 15 attempts, including five in the first quarter with Green making two of them on his way to nearly half of the Clippers’ 25 points in the period.

NOTES

The Clippers have a magic number of four to clinch their first-ever Pacific Division title… Former Clipper Reggie Evans had seven points and 16 rebounds in 37:10… Butler scored eight points. It’s only the fourth time in the last 14 games he’s had fewer than 10… Coincidentally, the Clippers have scored 101 points in three consecutive games. They are only the second team since 1985-86 to do so… Paul blocked two shots for the third time in his career and first time since Dec. 2009… Chauncey Billups missed his second straight game with a strained right groin… 



 

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