Clippers hold off upset-minded Wizards 94-87


Associated Press

LOS ANGELES — Blake Griffin had one of those rare nights when his free throw percentage for the game was actually higher than his field goal percentage.

The three-time All-Star made a pair of clutch foul shots in the final 2 minutes, finishing 7 for 10 from the line and partially atoning for his dreadful 5-for-18 performance as the Clippers held off the pesky Washington Wizards 94-87 on Saturday night.

Griffin has converted 23 of his last 29 from the line to improve his season percentage from 61.9 to 64.2.

“I’m just putting in the work every day and trying to turn that into something that’s a strength of mine and not something that can be a liability,” Griffin said. “It’s going to be huge for us, especially down the stretch and in the playoffs. So if I can shoot better from the free throw line, that will take a little pressure off the rest of the team.”

Chris Paul, the NBA player of the month for December, also had a poor-shooting game in his return to the Los Angeles lineup after missing three games because of a bruised right kneecap. He missed 10 of 16 shots, but still managed 22 points and 11 assists and helped seal the victory with seven points in the final 3:14. The Clippers won despite shooting a season-low 36.6 percent from the field.

“I was 6 for 16 and Blake was 5 for 18. That’s not going to happen on most nights,” Paul said. “The biggest thing is that we had 93 shot attempts and they had 77. That’s how we won the game — with offensive rebounding. It was cool to be back. I feel like it’s been the longest week, sitting out three games. But I still need to get my timing back and get it through my head that I can play.”

The surging Clips have won an astonishing 24 of their last 27 overall and are within a half-game of idle Oklahoma City for the NBA’s best record, a full game ahead of San Antonio. The top teams in the Western Conference will go head-to-head on Tuesday night at Los Angeles in a rematch of their overtime battle on Nov. 21, when the Thunder beat the Clippers 117-111 in Griffin’s hometown.

Just hours after the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings raised their first Stanley Cup banner to the Staples Center rafters and received their championship rings as a prelude to their lockout-delayed season opener, the Clippers reached the midway mark of their spectacular season and continued to tantalize their long-suffering fans with hopes of an NBA Finals appearance in June. The farthest the franchise has gotten in its 43-year history was the conference semifinals, in 2006 and again last season.

When asked if having a brand new championship banner hanging almost directly over the Clippers’ bench will be inspiring or uncomfortable, coach Vinny Del Negro said: “It won’t be uncomfortable. There’s a lot of banners up in this building (11 by the Lakers), and we’re just trying to make our own path right now and trying to achieve the most success we can with this group. The hanging of banners is very difficult, as everybody knows, but we’re just trying to achieve what we can and put ourselves in a position to compete at the highest level and see where it takes us.

“I know some of the people in the Kings organization and I know it’s an exciting time for them,” Del Negro added. “They earned it. I had a chance to look at their ring today, and it’s a beautiful ring. I’m happy for their success and for the city. That’s what it’s all about.”

Coming off a sweep of their three-game road trip through Memphis, Houston and Minnesota, the Clippers improved their home record to 19-4. The win was their fourth in a row since the 104-101 loss to Orlando on Jan. 12 that ended their franchise-record, 13-game home winning streak.

John Wall scored 24 points off the bench for the Wizards, whose league-worst record dropped to 8-30 even though they had won four of their previous five games.

“It was a close battle out there tonight,” said Wizards forward Nene, who had 12 points and seven rebounds. “There were things we couldn’t control, but it was close. The Clippers are good. They play together and trust each other, and they won. But we are playing much better.”

Wall, whose block of Ty Lawson’s potential game-tying layup in the final seconds helped the Wizards escape Denver with a 112-108 victory on Friday night and snap an eight-game road losing streak, shot 7 for 16 and had six assists in his fifth game of the season. The NBA’s top overall draft pick in 2010 returned to action on Jan. 12 after missing the team’s first 33 games with a stress injury to his left kneecap, but has yet to start.

The Wizards are a league-worst 2-17 on the road. They haven’t won consecutive games on the same road trip since last Feb. 12-14, when they beat Detroit by 21 points and Portland by 15 before losing to the Clippers the following night at Staples Center.

“They’re a good team despite their record. I mean, going into Denver last night and getting a win is not an easy thing to do,” Matt Barnes said. “They’ve got a lot of talent, they just haven’t figured out how to put it together.”

Los Angeles missed 11 of its first 14 shots in the fourth quarter before Paul hit a 3-pointer that gave it an 85-80 lead with 3:14 to play.

Bradley Beal hit a 3-pointer at the other end and Wall made one of two free throws to cut the Clippers’ margin to 85-84 with 2 minutes remaining. But Griffin hit a pair of free throws, then converted his offensive rebound of Paul’s missed jumper into a reverse layup for an 89-86 advantage. Paul helped clinch it with a 17-footer and two free throws in the final 33 seconds.

SPURS 98, HAWKS 93

ATLANTA — Tony Parker had 23 points and 12 assists, and the Spurs held off the short-handed Hawks for their fourth straight victory.

Matt Bonner added 17 points, and Kawhi Leonard and Tiago Splitter each had 14 for the Spurs.

The Hawks announced about 90 minutes before the game that guard Lou Williams faces season-ending surgery for a torn ACL in his right knee. Williams was hurt Friday at Brooklyn and the tear was found when Williams was examined on Saturday by Dr. Michael Bernot in Atlanta.

Then the Hawks lost guard Devin Harris to a sprained left ankle in the third quarter.

Josh Smith led the Hawks with 21 points. Kyle Korver, who started at shooting guard, had 19 points.

Spurs forward Tim Duncan was not in uniform as he was given the night off by coach Gregg Popovich.

GRIZZLIES 85, BULLS 82, OT

CHICAGO — Marc Gasol scored 19 points, Zach Randolph had 13 points and 19 rebounds, and Memphis beat Chicago in overtime.

Memphis scored the first six points of the extra period, Gasol’s putback making it 82-76. The Bulls cut it to 83-80 on Jimmy Butler’s layup and had a chance to tie, but Nate Robinson missed a 3-pointer with 25 seconds left.

Robinson made a layup with 6.6 seconds left, but Jerryd Bayless scored with 4.8 seconds remaining to make it 85-82. Carlos Boozer missed a 3 as time expired.

Chicago, playing its third consecutive overtime game in four days, didn’t have enough in overtime. The Bulls played without forward Luol Deng and had to fight back from a 17-point, third-quarter deficit.

CLIPPERS 94, WIZARDS 87

LOS ANGELES — Chris Paul had 22 points and 11 assists, Blake Griffin added 17 points and 11 rebounds, and Los Angeles hung on to beat pesky Washington for its 24th win in 27 games.

The Clippers won despite shooting a season-low 36.6 percent from the field. Paul, the NBA player of the month for December, returned to the lineup after missing three games because of a bruised right kneecap and scored seven points in the final 3:14.

The surging Clips are within a half-game of idle Oklahoma City for the NBA’s best record, a full game ahead of San Antonio. The top teams in the Western Conference will go head-to-head on Tuesday night at Los Angeles in a rematch of their overtime battle on Nov. 21, when the Thunder beat the Clippers 117-111 in Griffin’s hometown.

John Wall scored 24 points off the bench for the Wizards, whose league-worst record dropped to 8-30 even though they had won four of their previous five games.

WARRIORS 116, HORNETS 112

NEW ORLEANS — Klay Thompson had a season-high 29 points, Jarrett Jack scored seven of his 25 in the final minute and Golden State beat New Orleans.

The Warriors trailed 110-108 in a topsy-turvy game when Jack hit two free throws with 52 seconds left to tie the score. He converted a tough floater to give Golden State a 112-110 lead, and he finished off the Hornets with three free throws.

Thompson scored 24 in the first half as the Warriors led by as much as 16. Jack, who played for the Hornets last season, added 12 assists. Stephen Curry, returning after missing two games with a right ankle sprain, had 17 of his 20 points in the second half.

Eric Gordon scored 23 points for the Hornets, who lost despite shooting a season-high 57 percent. Rookie Anthony Davis added 20 points and 12 rebounds.

BUCKS 110, TRAIL BLAZERS 104

PORTLAND, Ore. — Brandon Jennings had 30 points and eight assists, Ersan Ilyasova added 27 points and 14 rebounds, and Milwaukee beat Portland to wrap up a 3-1 road trip.

Damian Lillard had 26 points and 10 assists for Portland, which has lost a season-high five straight games. LaMarcus Aldridge had 20 points and 14 rebounds, while Wesley Matthews added 21 points.

Mike Dunleavy had 14 points and Monta Ellis added 13 for Milwaukee, which is 5-2 since Jim Boylan took over as coach from Scott Skiles. Ilyasova shot 10 of 14 from the field and made all three of his 3-point attempts and all four of his free throws.

TIMBERWOLVES 92, ROCKETS 79

MINNEAPOLIS — Chris Johnson and Mickael Gelabale signed 10-day contracts with Minnesota on Saturday morning, then scored the first 23 points of the fourth quarter to lift the Timberwolves over the slumping Houston Rockets.

Johnson, signed from Santa Cruz of the NBA Development League, scored 13 of his 15 points in the fourth. Gelabale, a forward who arrived from France on Thursday, had 10 of his 11 points in the final 12 minutes to help the injury-plagued Wolves snap a five-game skid.

James Harden scored 18 points on 5-of-18 shooting for the Rockets, who have lost seven straight games. Houston shot 32 percent and committed 20 turnovers in another lethargic effort that had coach Kevin McHale scrambling to find anybody who could give them some energy.

KINGS 97, BOBCATS 93

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Marcus Thornton scored 18 points off the bench, Tyreke Evans came up big down the stretch, and Sacramento held on to beat Charlotte for its third win in four games.

After scoring just 69 points in a 16-point loss to Memphis a night earlier, the Kings made sure there would be not be another offensive letdown.

They led most of the way but needed a late burst from Evans, who scored six of the team’s last nine points in the final four minutes.

Evans finished with 16 points. DeMarcus Cousins added 17 points and 10 rebounds, and James Johnson chipped in with nine points and nine rebounds for the Kings (16-25).

JAZZ 109, CAVALIERS 98

SALT LAKE CITY — Randy Foye scored 20 points, Derrick Favors had a season-high 19 and Utah beat Cleveland.

Utah (22-19) used a 31-point third quarter to take a 16-point lead into the fourth. The Jazz have won five of their last six, and six straight over the Cavs.

Dion Waiters led the Cavs (10-32) with 23 points off the bench. Kyrie Irving added 18 points but started 1 of 7 from the field before finishing 7 of 20.

 

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