FINAL | January 27, 2013 | STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA 

Clippers

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ERIC PATTEN  

LOS ANGELES–They needed this.

After enduring a season-high-tying four-game losing streak and playing for the fourth straight time without superstar Chris Paul, the Clippers used a dominant third quarter to cruise past the Portland Trail Blazers, 96-83, at Staples Center Sunday night.

It was the most decisive victory for the Clippers (33-13) in the last eight games and came on the heels of a gut-wrenching one-point loss a night earlier in Portland.


“Tonight couldn’t have happened fast enough after how last night went,” Jamal Crawford said about defeating the Blazers (22-22) after their 101-100 loss Saturday. “To get that taste out of our mouths and get a win.”

Paul sat out with a bruised right kneecap for the seventh time in the last nine games. The Clippers are 4-3 in those games, but had been mired in a bit of a funk lately. They snapped out of it Sunday, sharing the ball, playing with defensive energy and getting back to what made them one of the most balanced and dangerous teams in the league.

“I think it’s about controlling our emotion and keeping our energy positive, doing all the little things and one of them is playing defense,” Lamar Odom said. “Whenever we get at it defensively, we have so many guys here that can have big games offensively. We shared the ball. That’s kind of our happy place.”

Moment of Truth: The Clippers overcame a controversial call late in the second quarter that seemed to shift momentum Portland’s direction. Caron Butler knocked down a 3-pointer in front of the Clippers’ bench and appeared to be fouled by the closing defender.

However, Butler was whistled for an offensive foul that took the 3-pointer off the board. J.J. Hickson converted a 3-point play on the opposite end and Damian Lillard made 3-pointer 17 seconds later to tie the game at 46. The Clippers went on to score the nine of the next 13 points, capped by a breakaway dunk from Blake Griffin with 0.6 seconds left in the half off a long outlet pass by Odom.

Griffin’s basket seemed to propel the Clippers into the third quarter, where they smothered Portland, holding them to 28.6% shooting and just 12 points to extend a 55-50 halftime lead to 78-62 entering the fourth quarter.

“Our defense is important for us to win games, even when we’re not playing well offensively,” Willie Green said. “If we can go out put forth the effort defensively like we did tonight, we’ll give ourselves a chance to win every night.”

Difference Maker: The Clippers inside. It was the second consecutive game the Clippers bludgeoned Portland in the paint. They outscored the Blazers, 30-12, in the paint during the first half, a night after a 56-32 advantage at the Rose Garden. They finished with a 56-24 advantage .

Stat Line of the Night: Griffin. This section might as well be a cut-and-paste job. Griffin has been nothing short of spectacular during the Clippers’ stretch of five games in seven days.

He scored the final 11 points of the first half Saturday and had six of his nine assists in the first half. For much of the first three quarters, when the Clippers gained an advantage as large as 19 points, the offense ran through him and he finished with 23 points, five rebounds and two steals in 28 minutes.

“Blake had a terrific game,” Eric Bledsoe said. “Especially since Chris hasn’t been playing, he’s stepped up his game big time.”

He closed out the week averaging better than 23 points, nine rebounds, six assists and two steals, becoming the first player to achieve at least those numbers in five-game week since LeBron James in 2005.

More Stats: 

Bledsoe. The play that maybe most typified Bledsoe’s night came with 3:06 left in the third quarter run. He snared a rebound on the defensive end and less than five seconds later he flipped in a layup on the other end. He finished with 10 points, five rebounds, five assists and two steals in his seventh start in place of Paul. He also helped direct traffic and was more vocal, something that he yearned to improve after the Clippers lost in Phoenix on Thursday.

“I think I got guys in spots and even picked my spots,” Bledsoe said about leading the team as the point guard. “I think I did a great job of being a leader. [The coaches] will tell me it’s alright to yell at guys. And the veteran leadership that we have, I think they understand that.”

Odom. He matched a season-high with 13 rebounds and added six assists and eight points for his best all-around night of the season. He also knocked down a pair of jumpers from the outside, but more importantly, according to Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro, Odom was aggressive attacking the basket.

“I was glad to see him attacking the basket a little bit more tonight, especially when [the Blazers] were trapping and showing hard on the high pick-and-roll with Jamal," Del Negro said. "Lamar knows how to play, he’s unselfish but I like when he’s aggressive in the middle of that defense.”

Aldridge. The 2013 All-Star reserve got DeAndre Jordan in foul trouble and led Portland with 21 points and 11 rebounds. He was one of only three members of the Blazers in double-figures.

Green. Not only has Green been among the league’s hottest 3-point shooters since Jan. 9 (12-for-25), but on Sunday he helped in other ways. He drew a charge on Lillard in the third quarter, stripped Ronnie Price to lead to fast-break layup for Bledsoe giving L.A. a 16-point lead, and played solid perimeter defense on Wesley Matthews. Of course, Green also went 3-for-5 from the field (1-for-3 from distance) and scored seven points.  

Hot: The Clippers sharing the ball. They matched a season-high with 33 assists and had 11 players score at least six points. While outside of Griffin, no one dominated the game statistically, it was the kind of all-around team effort that may have been missing earlier in the week.

“Everybody gets involved,” said Jamal Crawford, who had five assists with nine points off the bench. “To have 33 assists, I mean, there could have been more assists, we had some miscues. But to have everybody involved like that, standing up when something good happens that’s who we are.”

Not: Lillard. The leading candidate for Rookie of the Year scored 16 points, but did so on 5-for-14 shooting (2-for-7 from 3-point range). He also had just five assists to go along with five turnovers.

“Lillard shoots the ball really well,” Del Negro said. “He got loose a couple times on turnovers, but overall we tried to make him feel us a little bit and take his airspace away as much as possible.”

Quotables:

On playing without Chris Paul:

Griffin: “I mean, Chris is a huge part of our team. He kind of directs the game from the point guard spot. He has the ball in his hands 85% of our offense, so when he goes out our whole dynamic changes.”

On playing the Clippers on consecutive nights:

Hickson: “It’s very difficult, especially in this league, and especially playing a team back-to-back with no time in between. But that’s no excuse. We knew it was going to be a tough game, especially playing in L.A. We were ready for the challenge, but we just came up short.”

On the status of Chauncey Billups:

Del Negro: “Chauncey had a really good workout this morning; up and down the court, some contact and things. Hopefully, here soon he’ll be able to practice in terms of 5-on-0 and no contact stuff that we do in practice to try and see how he feels."

Notes: This was the sixth time since 2007-08 the Clippers have played consecutive regular season games against a single opponent. They are 3-3 in the back end of those games… Portland shot 3-for-15 (20.0%) from 3-point range, a night after going 11-for-25 (44.0%)… It was the final game for the Clippers before embarking on an eight-game, 15-day road trip that begins Wednesday in Minnesota… The Clippers bench outscored Portland, 36-16. It is the 35th time this year the Clippers’ bench has outscored their opponent.

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