POSTGAME REPORT: CLIPPERS 102, RAPTORS 83 - 12/9/12

LOS ANGELES–They did it again.

Handed a marginal lead entering the final quarter for the second consecutive game, the five-man Clippers reserve unit, affectionately being referred to as “A Tribe Called Bench,” turned things into a blowout.

Against the Toronto Raptors Sunday afternoon, the lead was four points at the end of three quarters and after holding the Raptors scoreless for nearly seven minutes, the Clippers cruised to their sixth consecutive win, 102-83, at Staples Center.

The Clippers (14-6) have 14 wins after 20 games for just the third time in franchise history and they did it with their starters not scoring a point in the fourth quarter for the fourth time in five outings.

“Our starters had their moments tonight, but overall I thought our bench was the key again,” Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said. “They’re just doing a more consistent job for us defensively in terms of talking, getting into people as a group.”


It was the second unit’s defense that sparked the Clippers to an 18-point victory on Saturday against the Suns and it was more of the same Sunday as the bench closed the game on a 21-4 run, holding Toronto (4-17) without a field goal from the 9:06 mark to 0:19.

By the time Raptors forward Linas Kleiza knocked down a 3-pointer from the corner, the game was well decided.   

“We try to keep pressure on teams for 48 minutes and at some point we try to make it overwhelming,” Paul said. “A lot of times teams can stand it, but sooner or later it becomes a lot because we come in waves. It’s not really a bench.”

Difference Maker: The bench. Jamal Crawford, who leads the NBA in fourth-quarter scoring, had nine points in final period and Eric Bledsoe added 10 of his 14 points in the stretch. But more than the scoring it was the defense of the Clippers second unit that turned the tide. The Raptors, who opened up a three-point lead at halftime and stayed close for much of the first 36 minutes, were outscored 25-10 in the fourth. Lamar Odom and Ronny Turiaf walled off the interior and the wing trio of Bledsoe, Crawford and Barnes made things hectic for the Raptors on the perimeter, contesting shots and getting in passing lanes.

Moment of Truth: Crawford and Bledsoe led the bench scorers with 16 and 14 points, respectively. Bledsoe, playing on his 23rd birthday, also added six assists, four rebounds and two steals.  

His second steal helped ignite an extended run in the fourth as he poked away a pass by rookie Terrence Ross that led to a breakaway dunk.

“When we start getting stops, you hear the crowd, it’s like a total uplifter,” Turiaf said. “It makes you play even harder. It’s called momentum and once we have the momentum, it’s like: ‘we’re coming.’”

“Those five guys, we definitely have something going because we understand each other and respect each other and we’re going in the same direction,” Turiaf said.

Stat Line of the Day: Blake Griffin opened the game with 12 points in the first quarter and finished with 19 in 29:10. He added nine rebounds, four assists and three steals. Griffin has seven steals in the last two games.

More Stats: 

DeRozan. He scored a game-high 24 points and helped keep Toronto afloat during a 33-point third quarter from the Clippers. DeRozan knocked down five of his seven shots in the period, including two as the shot clock was expiring. He finished with 11 in the third.

DeAndre Jordan. He was 1-for-7 from the field and 5-for-11 from the foul line for seven points, but added 10 rebounds and two blocked shots.

Kleiza. Starting in place of the Mickael Pietrus (knee), the Lithuanian forward put in 17 points, making five of Toronto’s 10 3-pointers.

Hot: Griffin. He needed just 11 shots to scored 19 points and made five of his six free throws.

Not: Toronto’s fourth quarter. They were 3-for-20 in the period, including 1-for-7 from 3-point range, and nearly had as many fouls and turnovers (seven) as points (10).

“We hit a wall there at the end of the fourth quarter and lost our rhythm offensively,” Raptors head coach Dwane Casey said. “The ball stopped moving. It was like we lost our mojo.”

Quotables:

On Ronny Turiaf:

Griffin: “It’s a blast watching Ronny. Sometimes you don’t know what he’s saying or you can’t understand what he’s saying. It’s so fun. It’s funny. He has all these hand gestures and at one point he started dancing. There was like 2 or 3 minutes left and he was out there dancing and we were like, ‘What is he doing?’ Then he got a rebound and went down and got a dunk.”

On playing on his birthday:

Bledsoe: “This is by far my best [game on my birthday]. It’s been my dream to play [in the NBA] and to do it on my birthday is just fantastic.”

On team chemistry:

Barnes: “We know what our ultimate goal is right now. We have a very talented team and guys have to make sacrifices. That may be playing time or shots. But whatever it may be, everyone has bought in and the more time we have together, the better we play.”

On the Clippers bench:

Casey: “Once they get a rhythm going up and down and get their defense turned up, they can cause problems.”

Notes: Crawford’s team record of 58 consecutive free throws was snapped with 3:23 left in the second quarter. He missed both shots on the trip. Coincidentally, he missed two shots on the same trip in the game his streak began… Matt Barnes and John Lucas III were ejected for a skirmish underneath the basket with 1:36 left in the game… Trailing by eight, the Raptors got back in the game over an elongated run to close the second quarter. They outscored the Clippers 11-0 during the final 4:13 of the quarter. During the stretch the Clippers missed four shots, committed two turnovers and were whistled for two loose-ball fouls… Crawford converted his NBA record 35th 4-point play in the fourth quarter... Paul scored 16 points with a season-low four assists… The Clippers committed 11 turnovers. They have had 11 turnovers or fewer in five of their last six games.