FINAL | March 27, 2013 | New Orleans Arena | New Orleans, LA

Clippers

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ERIC PATTEN

NEW ORLEANS – It’s as if the Clippers’ vaunted bench was begging the question: remember us?

Blake Griffin scored 19 points and Chris Paul had 16 points and nine assists in his second career game as a visitor to New Orleans Arena, but it was the bench that helped extend the Clippers’ lead in the fourth quarter and solidify a 105-91 victory Wednesday over the Hornets on game two of their four-game road trip.

It was the 49th win of the season for the Clippers (49-23), matching the all-time franchise record, as well as the franchise-record 21st road win. They also moved a game and a half ahead of the Memphis Grizzlies and percentage points ahead of the Denver Nuggets for third place in the Western Conference playoff race.

Led by 13 from Jamal Crawford, the bench scored 39 points, but more importantly were back to the scrambling defensive style that characterized them for the better part of the first three months of the season.

After the Hornets pulled to within two points at the end of the third quarter, two jumpers by Crawford, a 3-pointer by Eric Bledsoe and another one by Matt Barnes off a skip pass from Crawford, gave L.A. a firm cushion. They forced a 5-second inbounds violation and two turnovers, including a steal by Crawford, in the span, extending the lead to 91-81 before Griffin replaced Lamar Odom with 6:52 to go. Three minutes later, Paul re-entered to help finish off his former team, who were outscored, 26-14, in the final period.


“That’s our calling card, getting after it defensively and getting easy baskets,” said Crawford of the bench. “We all understand our roles. We’re all comfortable with each other and we all play well together. To get that synergy back is very important.”

Chauncey Billups returned to the starting lineup after missing three games with a strained right groin and scored 11 points in the first half. However, Billups re-aggravated the injury late in the second quarter and less than two minutes into the third quarter was replaced by Willie Green, who promptly hit two 3-pointers in the third quarter.

“We’ll just see,” Billups said of his status moving forward. “The [injury] in Sacramento felt a lot worse than this one. I just felt it a little bit. I tried it for a little bit and was like, ‘Ahh, I don’t want to push it.’ Hopefully, it’s day-to-day.”

Billups helped the Clippers close out the first half with a wild sequence where he dished to Caron Butler for a 3-pointer in the right corner with 7.0 seconds left. Griffin and Paul combined to swipe the ball from Brian Roberts in Hornets’ backcourt and as Paul retrieved it he found Billups for a bank-shot 3-pointer from the right wing with a tenth of second to spare. The six-point burst gave L.A. a 56-48 lead and capped a half in which they made nine of their 14 attempts from beyond the arc.

They finished 13-of-29 (44.8%) for the game, outscoring New Orleans by 27 points from beyond the arc.

“You’re not always going to shoot it well, but you have to be effective and if you’re not you’ve got to find ways to be effective out there,” Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said. “I thought tonight we shot it a little bit better. We had a little bit better flow, but we got more production from more guys.”

Butler had 13 points in 26:34, including two 3-pointers, and DeAndre Jordan grabbed 11 rebounds, giving him three straight double-digit rebounding games in row for the first time this season.

But in the end, it was the bench’s play down the stretch that may have won the game.

“It helps a lot [when the bench plays well],” Griffin said. “That’s what was happening a lot of times during that streak, the bench was coming in and either extending a lead or getting it back or maintaining it, whatever it was.”

NOTES

The Clippers made 24 of their 28 free throws, including 7-for-8 from Griffin… Butler has scored 13 points or more in five of the last six games… Anthony Davis had 19 points and nine rebounds, while former Clipper Eric Gordon scored a game-high 24 points on 9-of-18 shooting. Gordon sat out New Orleans’ previous game with a left ankle injury… Jordan has made 15 straight field goals, dating back to Mar. 20. He was 3-for-3 Wednesday… Hornets point guard Greivis Vasquez was held scoreless in 27:50. He also committed two turnovers and five fouls.

PAUL RETURNS TO NEW ORLEANS

After spending the first seven years of his career with the Hornets, Paul played in New Orleans as a visitor for just the second time Wednesday. He lost the first game there last March, when the Clippers wrapped up a stretch of three games in three nights during the lockout-shortened season.

While this time was a different result, the sentiment for Paul remained the same.

 

“When we were warming up I told Lamar Odom, I’ve scored a lot of buckets on this court, a few of them on you,” Paul said. “This is always going to be a tough place to play, but this is very familiar with this win.”   


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