NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Blake Griffin scored 20 points, Chris Paul made clutch plays on both ends of the floor in the final minute, and the Los Angeles Clippers overcame a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter for a 96-93 victory over the New Orleans Hornets on Friday night.
Matt Barnes scored 16 points, scoring three times during a critical stretch for the Clippers, who would have seen their hopes of earning home-court advantage in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs take a hit with a loss. Instead, the Clippers won their fourth straight in large part thanks to Paul, who had 14 assists and finished with 17 points — including eight in the final minute on a pull-up jumper and six free throws.
Eric Gordon scored 25 points for New Orleans, which has lost three straight.
With Paul running Los Angeles’ offense, the Clippers scored on their last 11 possessions, and 15 of their last 16, giving them 31 points inside during the last seven minutes. Paul altered Roberts’ missed driving layup attempt that could have made it a one-point game with 45 seconds left.
Robin Lopez had 19 points and 12 rebounds for New Orleans, which was playing without forward Anthony Davis (left knee) and point guard Greivis Vasquez (right ankle).
Ryan Anderson scored 17, and Brian Roberts had 15 points and 11 assists in a spot start at point guard.
Los Angeles held a slim lead midway through the third quarter after Griffin’s step-back jumper. Then New Orleans surprisingly surged into the lead with a 9-0 run that included Anderson’s 3 and two layups by Roberts, one on a fast break after his steal.
Anderson’s putback several minutes later gave New Orleans a surprising 63-57 lead heading into the fourth quarter, and lead grew to 10 on Gordon’s free throws with 8:31 to go.
New Orleans still led by eight, at 80-72, after Gordon’s 3 with 5:13 left. Then Paul scored on a baseline drive, initiating a 24-13 run to close the game.
It might not have been so close if Los Angeles hadn’t struggled badly from 3-point range, missing 19 of 26. But Jammal Crawford made two late 3s after missing six of his first seven and finished with 15 points.
The Hornets outworked Los Angeles inside much of the game, finishing with 19 offensive rebounds and 27 second-chance points, but New Orleans also was a dismal 6 for 19 from 3-point range and was hurt by 15 missed free throws.
Both teams went through stretches in which their play was not sharp in the opening two quarters. The Hornets missed 11 free throws and 10 3s in the first half, during which the Clippers missed 12 3s and turned the ball over eight times, with even Paul mishandling a routine pass for a back-court violation.
Griffin had nine early points on three dunks, a layup and a free throw, but did not score in the second quarter, when he attempted two 3s, missing both. Lopez kept the Hornets close early with 15 of his points in the first half. After New Orleans had missed its first 10 3-point attemtps, Roberts finally made one in the final minute of the half to match one made by Paul moments earlier and cut the Clippers lead to 43-40 heading into the locker room.
NOTES: The Clippers play at Memphis, their closest pursuer for the fourth seed, on Saturday night. … The Hornets finished 1-3 against the Clippers this season. … Roberts was making his fourth start of the season, he had averaged 11.7 points in his previous three starts. … De Andre Jordon limped off the court after falling awkwardly in the third quarter, but returned to the game.