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FINAL | April 12, 2013 | New Orleans Arena | New Orleans, LA

Clippers Logo

24

19

14

39

96

Hornets Logo

25

15

23

30

93

 

Eric Patten

 

NEW ORLEANS – At this point in the season, a team will likely take any win.

 

After struggling to score the ball for the better part of three and a half quarters, the Clippers ran off 31 points in the final 6:52 of the fourth quarter to outlast the pesky Hornets, 96-93, at New Orleans Arena Friday night.

It was the fourth straight win for the Clippers (53-26), who are now a game behind both Memphis and Denver in the race for the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference playoffs, and it came after coming back from a 10-point deficit to a New Orleans team without starters Anthony Davis (knee) and Greivis Vasquez (ankle).

“I just think we were letting our lack of offensive efficiency affect us on the defensive end and that’s something we can’t do this late in the season,” Matt Barnes said. “It was a gut-check. No matter what their record is, this a tough team, with or without who’s playing. We needed that win tonight.”

Barnes had six of his 14 points in the fateful 6:52, Jamal Crawford buried two 3-pointers in the stretch run, and Chris Paul scored 10 of his 17, including a free throw line jumper and six free throws to keep his former team at bay. But it was arguably Eric Bledsoe who turned the tide for a Clippers team desperate to keep pace with the Memphis Grizzlies in the Western Conference playoff race.

Bledsoe scored all nine of his points in what seemed like a flash. He buried a corner 3-pointer, nailed a couple of free throws and after Paul missed a twisting layup, Bledsoe sprinted from the right corner to follow it up with a two-handed dunk to make it 90-85.

“Everybody’s vibe just changed [during the comeback],” Bledsoe said. “Everybody started feeling like we could win.”

It helped that despite starting 2-for-11, Crawford caught fire in the fourth. He was 3-for-5 in the period, scoring 10 of his 15 points and dishing out three of his five assists. His first of two 3-pointers cut the Hornets’ lead to 81-77 with 4:07 remaining and two minutes later sliced the Clippers’ deficit to one with another shot from beyond the arc. Barnes gave the Clippers their first lead since early in the third quarter with a pair of free throws on the next possession.

For Crawford, who is third in the NBA in fourth quarter scoring and is shooting 52.8% from long range in the final quarter of close games, it was about having the right mindset to breakout of his early slump.

“Willie [Green], Grant [Hill] and the coaching staff kept saying, ‘Stay aggressive,’” Crawford said. “Because they were good shots, they just weren’t going. It was one of those nights, but we battled back. Thank God, they stayed with me and I was able to help out a little bit at the end.”

Blake Griffin finished with a team-high 20 points, while Paul added 14 assist and Barnes had 16 points and 10 rebounds for his first double-double of the season. All three players were a part of a smallish lineup that also included Bledsoe and Crawford that played the last 8:50 together.

“I just felt like we had to scramble the game up,” Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said. “I thought Eric out there with his pressure. He got a big steal, got a couple free throws, Chris could get off the ball a little bit, we could pressure with Bled. At that time, we were just trying to manage things in terms of what’s going to work out there because we were down eight or 10 points and had no real energy, no real rhythm. So, sometimes you’ve got to roll the dice and it worked this time.”

After running off six straight points to start the game, all on dunks, the Clippers bogged down for lengthy stretches of the first half. Griffin was saddled with two fouls, they committed eight turnovers Crawford and Caron Butler combined to go 3-for-12, and their transition game was limited by 13 fouls and 16 Hornets free throw attempts. However, New Orleans, sixth in the NBA in free throw percentage, missed 11 of their first-half foul attempts. They were also 1-for-11 from 3-point range.

The poor shooting prevented the Hornets from grabbing no more than a five-point lead in the opening quarter. And after the teams combined for eight points in a five-minute stretch during the second, the Clippers took a tenuous hold on the lead. But the Hornets held the Clippers to five made field goals in the third quarter to take a 63-57 lead heading into the fourth.

For the third consecutive meeting with New Orleans, the Clippers struggled to contain Robin Lopez early. He scored 10 points in the first quarter, bringing his three-game first-quarter total to 33.

Eric Gordon led all scorers with 25 points and Lopez finished with 19 points and 12 rebounds, including eight on the offensive glass. As a team, the Hornets out-rebounded L.A., 48-41 (19-10 offensive).

“For whatever reason, we weren’t getting bodies on people,” Del Negro said of New Orleans’ rebounding edge. “They stretched us out a little bit. Ryan Anderson makes it a problem because when the set screens he always pops so far so the weak side’s got to be in. We didn’t hit hard enough [on the glass] from the weak side.”

But the defense picked up and “gang rebounding,” according to Barnes, solved the problem on the boards. And the Clippers offense came alive just in time to save a game that they had to win.

“We finally found a way to get it done,” Del Negro said. “I was pleased, the last five or six minutes of the game we seemed to really lock in defensively, got some stops, scored a lot when we had to. I was disappointed early with our energy and the way we were running on both ends. It wasn’t like we had been the last three games, but the fourth quarter was and that was obviously the key.”

NOTES

Crawford missed his second free throw attempt in the fourth quarter, snapping his streak of 40 consecutive made free throws. He holds the franchise record, having made 58 in a row in November and December… Chauncey Billups (groin) did not play, but Del Negro said he is optimistic the veteran guard will return to the lineup within the next two games… The Hornets went 17-for-32 (53.1%) from the foul line… The Clippers had 28 assists on 35 field goals… The Clippers moved to 7-22 when trailing after three quarters...

 

 
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