Gordon, Clips shock NBA-best Hornets
After a few close calls the past couple of weeks, the Los Angeles Clippers finally summoned enough grit and determination to close one out and get their second victory of the season.
The team they did it against made the effort that much sweeter.
Eric Gordon scored 27 points, including a pair of clinching free throws with 4.7 seconds left, and Blake Griffin added 24 points and 13 rebounds to help the Clippers beat New Orleans 99-95 on Monday night. The loss was the second this season for the Hornets, who began the day tied with San Antonio for the NBA's best record.
"We won this game against a good team, so that makes it even better," Gordon said. "The chemistry is getting a little better, and we're moving the ball a little bit better. That's giving us a good feel for the game, and guys are knocking down shots."
Griffin, who had a breakout game on Saturday night with 44 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists in a 124-115 loss to the New York Knicks, recorded his eighth double-double.
The Clippers (2-13) ended a nine-game losing streak with their first victory in their last 15 meetings with New Orleans since Jan. 8, 2007 at Oklahoma City, where the Hornets relocated temporarily after the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina.
One of the defeats during this recent skid was in overtime against Detroit, and another was in double OT at Utah. Last Wednesday at Minnesota, the Clippers lost by two after Rasual Butler missed a 3-point shot at the buzzer.
"Tonight we concentrated on staying focused and executing the plays. That's what really got us over the hump," Gordon said. "And we really grinded it out defensively."
Griffin's Achilles heel this season has been his free throw shooting. The first overall pick in the 2009 draft missed eight of 14, lowering his percentage to 54.9.
"It's unacceptable," Griffin said. "The most frustrating thing is to shoot 50 free throws in practice make 46, and then come out here and miss over half of my free throws. It's not embarrassing. It's just something mental. It's something I'll keep working on, and I'll work it out."
Center Chris Kaman missed his seventh straight game because of a sprained left ankle. Point guard Baron Davis, who began his NBA career with the Hornets, sat out for the 11th time in 12 games because of a swollen left knee.
David West had 30 points and 10 rebounds for New Orleans, but missed an out-of-control layup in the final seconds before the Hornets lost possession out of bounds. Gordon then made his critical free throws to seal it. Hornets point guard Chris Paul finished with 14 points and six assists.
"For the past three or four games, we've just been getting by," Paul said. "They say winning cures all. But hopefully, with this loss, we'll get back to paying attention to what we've got to do as a unit defensively."
For the first time this season, the Hornets trailed after three quarters - albeit only 77-73. The Clippers maintained the lead until West hit a fadeaway 18-footer to put New Orleans ahead 86-85 with 5:18 to play. Griffin sank two free throws and converted an offensive rebound into a layup while getting fouled, but missed the ensuing free throw to leave the score tied at 93.
The Clippers regained possession on a shot clock violation, and Ryan Gomes got an offensive rebound and putback after a missed layup by Gordon to give Los Angeles a 95-93 edge with 37.7 seconds to go.
Marco Belinelli missed a 3-point attempt at the other end with 28 seconds left, and teammate Trevor Ariza committed a foul away from the ball on an inbounds play before missing two free throws with 21.8 seconds remaining.
Clippers rookie Al-Farouq Aminu, who picked up three fouls in his first 2 minutes on the floor against the Knicks and played 5 scoreless minutes after coming off the bench, bounced back from that game with a fury. He started for the fifth time in six games and scored all of his 16 points before halftime, ending the first quarter with a 3-point buzzer-beater and sparking a 9-0 spurt in the final 1:25 of the second quarter with two dunks to help slice an 11-point deficit to 57-55.
NOTES: After learning of the tragic accident Sunday night at Staples Center in which a 2-year-old boy fell about 30 feet from a third-tier luxury suite after the Lakers-Warriors game and later died at a hospital, Hornets rookie coach Monty Williams altered his usual pregame speech to his players and put everything into proper perspective. "I thought about it all day today," a subdued Williams said. "This is real life, and basketball is a small section of it. So we're going to enjoy the game and try to win, but not forget how blessed and privileged we are to play this game. We have a lot of new dads on this team, and I may have more kids than all of them put together. So to have a child die at an event where you're planning on having a good time, it's got to be a tough thing to go through. Somebody's family has changed in an instant, and then we go right back in here playing - almost like business as usual - while the family is still grieving."