Clippers outlast Hawks for 7th straight win
LOS ANGELES (AP) Coming off a resounding victory over the Lakers in which they posted the largest winning margin in franchise history, the Los Angeles Clippers had to fight to the bitter end against the Atlanta Hawks after squandering an 11-point lead in the fourth quarter.
Blake Griffin had 27 points and eight rebounds, Chris Paul added 19 points – including a go-ahead layup in the final minute – and the Clippers beat the Hawks 109-108 on Saturday night for their season-high seventh straight win.
”In the locker room, I almost felt like we lost the game, because we expect a lot from themselves,” Paul said. ”But the name of the game is winning. So obviously, we’re happy we won. But there’s a lot of things we need to clean up.”
The Pacific Division leaders got 13 points and 12 rebounds from DeAndre Jordan, and 17 points from Matt Barnes on the eve of his 34th birthday. The Clippers shot 53.2 percent from the field, improving to 22-1 when shooting 50 percent or better.
”The Clippers are a really dangerous team,” Atlanta’s Kyle Korver said. ”We tried to eliminate their fast-break points, and they had one little stretch in the third quarter and they had a couple of plays that were hurting us with Blake and Chris. But other than that, I think we did a pretty good job.”
Griffin made 11 of 19 shots while extending his career-best streak of games with 20 or more points to 22. Jamal Crawford had three points in 10 minutes off the bench after missing three games with a left calf strain.
DeMarre Carroll scored 19 points in Atlanta’s 14th loss in 15 games and sixth in a row. The Hawks have gone from four games over .500 to 26-35 during this sudden freefall but are still eighth in the Eastern Conference, 2 1/2 games ahead of Detroit for the final playoff berth.
The Clippers had lost seven of the previous nine meetings, including 107-97 defeat in Atlanta on Dec. 4. Barnes missed that game because of a torn retina in his left eye.
”The first thing you do is watch the last time you played them, and that was a good basketball team that night,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. ”They were playing so well at that time, then all of a sudden they just fell on hard times. A lot of that is confidence. When you start losing, you start pressing. They’ve also made a lot of trades and (roster) moves, and I think that affects your team.”
The Hawks have dropped their last 10 on the road, their longest drought since losing their final 13 in 2006-07.
The Hawks were 12 for 28 from 3-point range. It was the 27th time they made at least 10 from behind the arc, tying the club record they set last season.
All-Star forward Paul Millsap scored 14 points in his second game back, after missing the previous five with a bruised right knee. Korver was 3 for 3 behind the arc against the team with the league’s best 3-point defense, two games after his NBA-record streak of 127 games with a 3-point basket ended at Portland.
Paul began the final quarter on the bench with the Clippers holding an 88-78 advantage. Danny Granger, playing his third game for the club since signing as a free agent, hit a 16-footer and a 20-footer 33 seconds apart and Willie Green added a 3-pointer for a 98-87 lead with 8:41 to play.
The Hawks closed to 102-100 with an 11-2 run capped by Korver, who recorded his seventh four-point play of the season and 12th of his career. He also had a four-point play in the previous meeting.
Jeff Teague’s driving layup tied it at 107 with 1:35 remaining, but Paul responded with a driving layup with 54 seconds to go.
The Hawks, whose 19 turnovers were converted into 25 points by the Clippers made a costly one under their own basket with 33 seconds left. But Griffin missed two free throws, giving Atlanta another life. Teague was fouled by Jordan with 1.2 seconds left and after missing the first free throw made the second when he was trying to miss.
”I just told Blake in the locker room that I think this is the worst I’ve felt about a win this season,” Barnes said. ”This was just a nasty win, a different kind of win. But at the end of the day, it was a win. We still have a lot to work on. With my game, it’s more mental that anything – cut down turnovers and play solid defense.”
Already playing without injured forwards J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley, the Clippers had to go the final 9:50 of the second quarter without newly acquired forward Glen Davis after Big Baby picked up his first three fouls in a 3:53 span. Davis finished with four points in 13 minutes.
NOTES: Rivers played eight seasons with Atlanta and is still the Hawks’ career assist leader with 3,866. ”It’s shocking, especially because of the fact that I didn’t know I still had it,” said Rivers, whose final regular-season game with them was on April 21, 1991. ”Mookie Blaylock didn’t break that? Then it’s going to stand forever. I’m going to talk to Danny Ferry (the Hawks’ GM and president of basketball operations) and every time a guy gets close, I’m going to request that he get traded.”