Clippers beat Lakers behind Paul's 33 points
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The Los Angeles Clippers showed they could beat the Lakers even with Kobe Bryant going over the 40-point mark for the fourth consecutive game.
Chris Paul scored 33 points, Blake Griffin had 22 points and 14 rebounds, and the Clippers led all the way in winning 102-94 on Saturday night, their second victory in four days over one of the NBA's elite teams.
"It's early. We're not going to get too high with these wins," Paul said. "We definitely made strides in the right direction defensively and with rebounding. We got to make that habit and not a one-time thing."
Chauncey Billups added 19 points, former Laker Caron Butler had 13 points and DeAndre Jordan had 10 rebounds for the Clippers, who beat Miami 95-89 in overtime on Wednesday and have won five of their last six.
Paul limped off after hitting a jumper in the final minutes and said after the game that he hurt his left leg and would see a doctor.
Griffin said he wasn't concerned with the doubters who wonder if the Clippers may finally shed their reputation as perennial losers.
"It's definitely going to take time if we're going to remove that label," he said. "We don't care. We're worried about this year."
Paul, Billups and Butler -- all added before the season began -- are paying early dividends. Paul, who had 27 points against the Heat, was originally headed to the Lakers from New Orleans until Commissioner David Stern nixed the deal.
"They couldn't guard him," Billups said of Paul. "Coming off the pick-and-rolls, he was unstoppable. His shot was on point and he really caused them a lot of problems."
The Clippers controlled the boards 50-42, including a 17-11 edge on the offensive glass, despite being the league's worst rebounding team playing against the league's best.
"We talked about how they focused on the glass and they just did a terrific job on the boards," Bryant said. "Seventeen offensive rebounds is a lot of offensive rebounds. That's the area that really killed us. We did a pretty good job defensively in holding them to a low shooting percentage, but 17 offensive rebounds and 25 second-chance points, that's tough to deal with."
Bryant notched his fourth straight game of 40 or more points but the Lakers had their five-game winning streak snapped by their Staples Center co-tenants, who beat them twice in the preseason. Bryant was 14 of 28 and made 12 of 14 free throws. He had 42 against Cleveland on Friday, 48 against Phoenix on Tuesday and 40 at Utah on Thursday.
"When a player of that caliber is looking to shoot that many times, he's going to make shots," Griffin said.
The Lakers got no closer than five points early in the fourth quarter as the visiting team. Bryant broke out for 21 points in the third, but he was limited to 10 in the fourth against the Clippers' double teams.
"Kobe got going and we came with some different coverages on him," Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said. "He hit some tough shots, but I thought overall we controlled the tempo of the game in the fourth quarter, which was one of the big keys for us."
Derek Fisher had no luck in containing Paul and the 37-year-old Lakers guard didn't return until there were 4 minutes left in the game.
"We didn't do a good job as a team on him," Bryant said. "We were short in our pick-and-roll coverage and let Chris kind of split us, mess around with the ball, dribble through the lane and do all the stuff that we're not supposed to let him do."
Billups and Paul hit consecutive 3-pointers to help the Clippers extend their lead to 67-53 midway through the third.
Bryant took over from there, scoring 17 of the Lakers' final 19 points of the quarter to close to 76-72. He began and ended the spurt with 3-pointers and in between hit 7 of 8 free throws while the Clippers were held to nine points over the final 5 minutes.
"I was just getting in spots to be effective and I was hitting my mid-range jumpers," Bryant said. "We were struggling and it just seemed like we were kind of dead in the water. I didn't get us off to a good start at all. I took the responsibility to try and generate some energy and try to get us back in the game. We were able to do that, but they made two big 3s to stretch it back out."
The Clippers' biggest first-half lead was 55-42 at the break. They outshot and outrebounded the Lakers, who were better in the paint.
The Lakers twice closed within three points in the second quarter, but the Clippers outscored them 16-6 to end the period, with Billups, Paul and Griffin combining for 14 points.
The Clippers opened the game on a 13-4 run, then outscored the Lakers 13-9 to lead after the first quarter. Things got chippy in the final 12 seconds when Darius Morris went up for a basket after Paul was whistled for a foul and Griffin pushed off him with both hands as Morris came down.
"We knew it was going to be a grind and get chippy," Jordan said.
Lakers coach Mike Brown got incensed and was called for a technical, while nothing was called on Griffin. Morris had the last word, though, when he sank a jumper from before the half-court line at the buzzer as Paul tried to cut him off. Metta World Peace and Grififin also had technical in the game.
NOTES: Clippers F Brian Cook left midway through the second quarter with a sprained left ankle. ... The Clippers improved to 5-1 at home and 6-0 this season when taking a lead into the fourth. ... The Clippers have sold out all six of their home games. ... The Lakers were playing their fifth game of the week and their 14th of the season, tying Chicago for most games played. ... The Clippers have played just nine games, fewest in the league. ... Clippers backup G Mo Williams missed the game because of an injured right foot that he hurt on Tuesday at Portland. ... Lakers G Jason Kapono is adjusting to sleepless nights after his wife gave birth to premature twin girls named Campbell and Isla earlier in the week. "Thirty minutes is like three hours. It's all been a blur," he said.