Wade takes lead as Heat top Clippers
Blake Griffin's first dunk of the day was a wake-up call.
For the Miami Heat, anyway.
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"Finally in the second half, we got it going," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
Griffin had his 42nd double-double for the season, finishing with 21 points and 16 rebounds. Randy Foye scored 15, Baron Davis added 14 and Ryan Gomes added 12 for Los Angeles, which fell to 3-17 away from home - not the best of signs for a team now two outings in to what'll become an 11-game road trip by the end of the month.
The Clippers shot 32.5 percent in a game that ended around brunch time in Los Angeles - 11:42 a.m. Pacific time, to be precise.
"We just weren't sharp and weren't good offensively," Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said. "The guys battled. Our bench was poor today. We didn't get anything from the bench, which really hurt us. We're just not deep enough now to go through those lulls."
Miami remained 1 1/2 games behind Boston for the best record in the Eastern Conference. Boston beat Orlando 91-80 later Sunday.
Miami led by 16 early, held a 15-point lead in the third, but found themselves only up nine early in the fourth quarter. Consecutive jumpers by House, the last a 3-pointer, quickly pushed the margin to 75-61 with 10:09 remaining. The Clippers missed their first 10 shots of the fourth, not getting on the scoreboard for the quarter until 7:31 was left to play.
House left his mark on the Clippers in the fourth. He fouled Griffin on a fast break with 7:08 left, sending the presumptive rookie of the year sliding into the basket support.
"Barely pushed him," James insisted to his longtime manager, Maverick Carter, who was sitting courtside.
Crew chief Ed Malloy huddled with referees Eric Lewis and Tommy Nunez Jr., who determined House's foul merited an ejection as a Flagrant-2. They also gave Davis a technical for the way he reacted to the play, then went to a lengthy video review.
"I've got a Super Bowl party, man," James yelled at them. "C'mon."
The call was changed to a Flagrant-1, House stayed in the game, and play resumed after about five minutes. The Clippers made two free throws and Griffin scored on the ensuing possession to get Los Angeles within 79-67, but Wade and James quickly answered with layups.
"I don't have any thoughts about it. I'll look at it on film and see what it looks like," Griffin said.
Said House: "I wasn't trying to hurt him."
What House did in the ensuing moments hurt the Clippers more. He hit two quick 3-pointers, and suddenly, it was 91-67 with 4:21 remaining.
The game started just past noon Eastern, with all NBA games Sunday having early tips so to avoid conflicting with the Super Bowl.
For the Clippers, it was the earliest start to a game since Feb. 4, 2007 - and they certainly lacked the early spark they had on the way to beating Miami in Los Angeles last month.
"It's tough," Del Negro said. "But I'm a big fan of 'no excuses."'
The Clippers had 44 points in the first quarter of that January meeting with Miami. They weren't even there by halftime Sunday, reaching the 44-point mark when Griffin made a pair of free throws with 8:33 left in the third quarter.
"We knew we had to get ready and get out and get to the fight early on, so we didn't have one of those first quarters like we had in L.A.," Wade said.
Griffin had his share of now-standard highlight-reel moments, including a dunk with about 3 minutes left in the first quarter that even left some on the Heat bench shaking their heads. Foye had missed a 3-pointer from the left side and Griffin - in one motion - leaped with his right arm outstretched, cradled the ball and slammed it through for a 15-13 lead.
That's when Miami got rolling - and the sleepy start to an early game ended.
Mike Miller had a lob to James for a transition dunk that put the Heat up 20-17, and Wade made a pair of 3s within a minute early in the second quarter to cap a 10-2 burst.
The Heat quickly tacked on a 10-0 run as well, with James beating Griffin to close it.
Griffin bumped James and sent him sprawling to the court about 30 feet from the basket, so James asked for the ball on the same possession, called a clear-out, drove at Griffin and had an acrobatic layup for a 42-27 lead - one of his few baskets, not that it mattered to him.
"Wins take care of themselves," James said. "That's all that matters to me."
NOTES: Del Negro said he expects Griffin to take part in the rookie-sophomore game, the dunk contest and All-Star Game during the league's midseason showcase weekend in Los Angeles. ... The Clippers and Heat have alternated wins and losses in their last six meetings, all at home.