LOS ANGELES - It wasn’t a perfect game, but the Clippers showed that they can hang with the NBA’s elite, defeating the defending champion Miami Heat, 107-100, Wednesday at Staples Center.

Though the game was close throughout with 17 lead changes and 14 ties, the Clippers (6-2) won their fourth game in a row by stealing the game’s momentum with 1:26 left in the third quarter, when Chris Paul hit back-to-back 3-pointers and sank two free throws to put his team up, 82-72.

Eric Bledsoe helped eliminate any possibility of a late Heat comeback by rebounding his own missed perimeter shot and putting in a layup to extend the lead to 13 with 10:08 remaining, at which point the Heat (6-3) seemed to be deflated. The Clippers would lead by as many as 20 points after that. 

Though the Clippers committed 18 turnovers and gave up eight offensive boards to Miami in the first half, Head Coach Vinny del Negro was pleased with his team’s bench production on the offensive end, as five players scored in double figures.

“I thought we didn’t execute as well as we wanted to,” he said. “We threw the ball away a lot. It was an excellent win, but we need to play better. In the second half, I thought our bench came in as usual and gave us a big lift. Everyone contributed in a positive way.”

LeBron James did all he could for the Heat, muscling his way into the paint, ad finishing with 30 points and seven assists. No other Heat player scored more than 14 points.

Difference Maker: Jamal Crawford. The reserve had 14 of his 22 points by halftime, finishing the game shooting 7-for-11 and a perfect 6-for-6 from the line to go along with six rebounds. He put on a dribbling clinic throughout as well.

“That was the first time I was able to just sit on the bench and almost be a fan of Jamal [Crawford] and just watch him do what he’s doing,” Griffin said.

“It’s fun,” forward Lamar Odom said. “He has scored 50 points on three different teams and he is [one of the only players] to ever do that. To see him having this kind of success on a big stage and on a team everyone is looking at, that is the coolest thing. It is special for him to be doing what he does on this team.”

Moment of Truth: Paul’s 8-0 run to close the third quarter. From that point on, the Heat unraveled, as Dwyane Wade, who played with a sprained left foot, shoved Ryan Hollins with 7.6 seconds left in the period for a technical foul.  

Stat Line of the Night: Blake Griffin had his third double-double with 20 points and 14 boards on an efficient 8-for-16 shooting. He had 11 points in the first quarter, and finished with six assists.

More Stats:

James. In 41 minutes, James’ 30 points came on 12-of-23 shooting. He added seven assists, five rebounds and two blocked shots.

Bledsoe. The reserve guard finished with 12 points in 17 minutes on 5-of-8 shooting. He seemed to make plays that took the heart out of Miami, such as an athletic block on Wade’s breakaway dunk in the second quarter that helped energize the Clippers.

Paul. He had his fourth double-double of the season with 16 points and 10 assists, to go along with four steals. He committed just three turnovers.

Hot: Caron Butler. He had eight points in the second quarter en route to 15 points, including three 3-pointers.

Not: Wade. The superstar shooting guard had just six points (2-for-10 from the field) and five turnovers in 29 minutes.


On the Clippers’ lineup

Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra: “We know and respect what these guys are about. We view them as legitimate contenders for the title and they were that last year. They proved that with their offseason. They played a good game and beat us fair and square.”

On the difference in tonight’s game:

Griffin: “Miami is a tough team. I think that we just got some big stops, came back and made some shots in the third quarter. I just happened to look up and we were up by eight points.”

On the play of the Clippers’ bench:

Bledsoe: “We don’t mind who we are out there playing against. It is a team sport and we are all out there to win. We go in as a team and we leave the court as a team.”

Notes: The Clippers shot 48.6% from the field compared to Miami’s 45.5%...The Clippers scored 32 of their points in the paint and took advantage of 18 second-chance points…Lamar Odom had two steals… All six Clippers wins have come by seven points or more.