The Los Angeles Clippers were ragged for the first 40 minutes. They got it together for the final eight, long enough to pull out a victory in their last home game of the regular season.
Chris Paul had 33 points and 13 assists, Randy Foye hit three of his six 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, and the Clippers rallied for a 107-98 victory over the New Orleans Hornets on Sunday night to move within a half-game of the Lakers for the Pacific Division lead and the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference.
”We needed this game a lot more than they did,” Mo Williams said. ”We want to get the home-court advantage. It’s very important to us.”
Foye scored 24 points, and Blake Griffin had 21 points and 15 rebounds in the Clippers’ 40th victory — their most since the 2006-07 team won that many. Paul made 17 of 19 free throws, while Griffin hit 7 of 9.
”We got to keep fighting,” Paul said. ”We got to win one more to lock up home court.”
Eric Gordon scored 17 points and Al-Farouq Aminu added 14 against their former team. They were part of the trade that sent Paul to the Clippers before the season.
Gordon was playing against the Clippers for the first time, having missed most of the season after right knee surgery.
”I’m way past the trade,” he said. ”It was a good experience coming back here and playing in front of the fans. I played here for three years and had good years here.”
Jason Smith added 13 points while getting booed whenever he scored by Clippers fans still angry over his flagrant foul on Griffin last month. The two were facing each other for the first time since Smith was ejected and suspended two games.
Mo Williams was called for a flagrant 1 foul on Gordon in the second quarter of a game bogged down by 58 fouls between the teams.
Hornets coach Monty Williams had sharp words for Griffin.
”I thought some of the calls just didn’t go our way and our guys didn’t give into that. It’s hard to play against all the flopping and nonsense that goes on with that team,” he said.
”Who is the common denominator with all this fluff going on around the league? Blake Griffin. We don’t dunk, we don’t stare at people, we play the game the same way every night. . . . But all the extra stuff, we’ve never been about that.”
Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said, ”I don’t think we flop.”
The win didn’t come easy against the West’s worst team.
The Clippers blew an 11-point lead in the first quarter and fell behind by 13 in the fourth before eventually winning their second in a row and 11th of their last 12 at home.
”The last eight minutes turned it up on the defensive end, we got stops and we were able to get out in transition,” Paul said. ”Our bench came in and was huge.”
After Griffin’s technical for complaining about a foul call, Foye hit back-to-back 3-pointers to draw the Clippers to 91-90 with 4:05 remaining.
”It was more the way I was playing defense,” Foye said. ”E.G. is a tough cover. I was just locked in. I always shot the 3 ball pretty well, but not like this.”
Foye made two free throws that cut the Clippers’ deficit to one.
Paul was fouled by Greivis Vasquez on a 3-point attempt, and he made all three accompanied by chants of ”MVP! MVP!” to put the Clippers ahead 95-93.
Gordon turned the ball over and Griffin responded with a two-handed dunk for a 100-95 lead as the Clippers went on to put it away.
Gordon, Aminu and Marco Belinelli combined on three straight turnovers to end the game.
”I don’t think we played very well,” Del Negro said. ”Our effort, our energy, our attitude and our intensity were not good for about 40 minutes and then in the last eight minutes or so Reggie (Evans) came in and gave us a huge boost. We were able to gut it out.”
The referees originally called Vasquez for a flagrant 2 foul against Evans in the closing minutes before revising it to a personal foul.
”Reggie is a tough guy, I turned around and he hit me hard,” Vasquez said. ”I was like `Come on, man.’ But it’s nothing personal.”
Williams said, ”They put Reggie Evans in the game for one reason, and that’s to come in and hit people. It’s hard to play against that. I’m not going to retract that. That’s what happened.”
The Hornets dominated the third quarter, outscoring the Clippers 32-17 in taking their first lead since the start of the game. Aminu had 12 points in the period against the team that drafted him two years ago. Paul scored 11 of the Clippers’ 17 points and they trailed by 10 going into the fourth.
Foye hit three 3-pointers in the first. The Hornets began catching up with a 12-6 run that ended the quarter with them trailing 32-27.
NOTES: Asked about his neck, Griffin said, ”Once I got loose and got going it was good.” … Del Negro suggested Phoenix C Robin Lopez should have been suspended for his flagrant 2 foul on Griffin last Thursday. He said Griffin is still in pain after Lopez hooked him by the neck on a breakaway layup attempt. ”To me it doesn’t make a lot of sense when a player gets a flagrant 2 and he’s able to play and the other player is still in pain,” Del Negro said before the game. ”To me what makes sense is that player doesn’t play until that player is healthy and playing. … The league needs to step up and do something in terms of making a statement, not just for Blake but for any player.” … Clippers F Caron Butler didn’t return after sustaining a left hip contusion late in the first quarter. … Clippers G Nick Young missed the game because of flulike symptoms. … Evans returned after missing two games with the flu. … Center DeAndre Jordan and Butler addressed the crowd before the game, thanking them for their support. ”We’ll see you guys in the playoffs,” Jordan said to cheers.