76ers 104, Clippers 94
LOS ANGELES (AP)
The Philadelphia 76ers didn't treat Blake Griffin too kindly on his 22nd birthday, forcing him to miss his first six shots and holding him to 14 points on 3 for 12 shooting before he fouled out for the third time this season.
One of the players making it tough on the All-Star rookie was Elton Brand, who had no idea that Griffin had a chance to tie his 2001-02 single-season record of 55 double-doubles in a Clippers uniform.
''I was not aware of that, but I'm glad I stopped him,'' Brand said with a huge grin on Wednesday night following a 104-94 victory that enabled the Sixers to tie the idle New York Knicks for sixth place in the Eastern Conference.
''He's so athletic. He gets to the rim with ease and he can finish over anybody, so we just tried to keep him out of that paint. I'm sure he'll get one the next game and tie it, then break it - but not on my watch.''
Jodie Meeks scored 22 points and Jrue Holiday added nine of his 20 in the final 6 1/2 minutes for Philadelphia. Brand, who played for the Clippers for six seasons and left for free agency as their career rebounding leader and third-leading scorer, finished with 19 points and 12 rebounds.
''We bent, but we didn't break,'' Brand said. ''It was a tough game, but we had to have it. We'd lost two in a row, the last one in overtime, and we feel we're a better team than that. Jodie Meeks has been great. He didn't even dress at the start of the season, so for him to hit these big shots and play the way he's been playing, it's been great for us.''
Griffin got his sixth foul with 1:28 remaining and finished with eight rebounds. It was the fifth straight game in which he failed to record a double-double. He scored a career-low eight points in a 105-82 loss Monday to Memphis that snapped his streak of 67 double-digit games - the longest at the start of a career since David Robinson's 77 in a row.
''I just think it's the fact that a lot of teams are putting a lot of pressure on him. He's been playing so well that teams are double- and triple-teaming him and not getting the looks at the basket that he's used to,'' teammate Chris Kaman said. ''Sometimes you just have off nights. It just happens, even to some of the best players in the world. You've just got to keep shooting, keep working and keep trying to get yourself back into the action.''
Griffin nearly came to blows with Tony Battie after the Sixers forward committed a flagrant foul.
About 2 minutes after making his first field goal, Griffin was hacked on his way to the basket while trying to drive between Battie and Meeks with 2:28 left in the first half. Battie still had a grip on Griffin's shirt when the usually even-tempered rookie bolted up from the floor and had to be restrained.
''Tony Battie was just trying to hold him up,'' Brand said. ''Blake's been getting beat up all season, and guys have been taking hard fouls, so on any type of play like that, he may think that it was something too aggressive. But I don't fault him for that because guys have been taking shots at him all season. I've seen him all season.''
Sixers coach Doug Collins received two quick technical fouls and was ejected with 15.8 seconds left in the half, following Battie's fourth personal foul. Before he departed for the dressing room, Collins gathered his players around him and had an animated discussion with them. Reserve Marreese Speights, who spent the entire game on the bench, also got a technical once the half ended.
''Coach felt like he had to try to make a statement. He made it a little bit too loud and a little too aggressive, and he got booted,'' Brand said. ''But we knew what we had to do out there. He told us the calls were going against us and that we had to fight and play through it.
''I certainly didn't agree with all the calls, and it seemed to go their way after the flagrant, but they saw what they saw and did a great job keeping it under control,'' Brand added.
The Clippers were outscored 30-19 in the third quarter. The 76ers extended their three-point halftime lead to 77-59 with a 16-4 run, capped by Meeks' 3-pointer with 2 1/2 minutes left in the period.
The Clippers got as close as 90-81 with 5:17 remaining on two free throws by Griffin, who was serenaded by some 76ers fans seated singing ''Happy Birthday'' to him behind the Philadelphia bench while he was at the line. But Griffin picked up his fifth foul 16 seconds later while trying to draw an offensive charge from Holiday, who came back with a 20-footer and 3-pointer on the Sixers' next two possessions.
Notes: Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro, winding down his first season with the team, admonished a few of his players in the near-empty dressing room after he heard some laughter from the hallway leading to his office. ... Even if Griffin gets a double-double in each of the Clippers' remaining 13 games, he would come up two short of the franchise record Bob McAdoo set with the Buffalo Braves in 1974-75. ... The 76ers, who have faced every team but the Sacramento Kings, will play them Friday night on the fourth leg of their five-game road trip. ... The Clippers are 1-34 when trailing after three quarters. The only victory was on Jan. 16 against the Lakers, when they entered the fourth down 71-68 and won 99-92.