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Paul carries Clippers past collapsing Pistons in overtime

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Associated Press
3/18/2012 7:10:01 PM
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LOS ANGELES -- The grueling NBA schedule is really starting to wear on the Los Angeles Clippers, who needed a late rally and a gritty overtime effort in their sixth home game in eight days just to hold off the Detroit Pistons.

Although Chris Paul is just as tired as his teammates, he's keeping the Clippers competitive while they're on the grind.

Paul scored nine of his 19 points in overtime and added a season-high 15 assists, carrying Los Angeles to an 87-83 victory over Detroit on Sunday.

Blake Griffin had 17 points and 11 rebounds, and he tipped in Paul's missed layup with 19 seconds left in regulation before Paul swiped the ball from Tayshaun Prince to send it to overtime.

After hitting two long jumpers early in overtime, Paul capped his dominant performance in what he called "winning time" by hitting the go-ahead jumper with 22 seconds left and then grabbing control of a jump-ball tip moments later, getting it to Randy Foye for a layup.

Paul added two free throws with 3.4 seconds left as Los Angeles finished its six-game homestand -- part of a preposterous nine games in 12 days -- at 3-3. That's hardly ideal, but better than it looked before Paul shepherded the Clips' back-to-back late comebacks against Houston and Detroit.

"We only like close games," Paul said with a grin. "We don't believe in blowouts. You don't get to work on as many things in blowouts."

Greg Monroe scored six of his 23 points in overtime and added 15 rebounds for Detroit, which dropped to 1-3 on its five-game Western Conference road trip. Prince scored 20 points for the Pistons, who went 3 for 16 in the fourth quarter while blowing a late nine-point lead.

Los Angeles jumped to a five-point overtime lead on two long jumpers by Paul, but Monroe's two free throws put Detroit ahead 82-81 with 31.8 seconds left. Paul nailed an elbow jumper to put the Clippers back in the lead before hitting Foye for a fast-break layup off a jump ball on Los Angeles' end.

"You'd be hard-pressed to find a better guy with the ball late in the game than Chris in this league," Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said.

After Ben Gordon hit one of two free throws, Paul coolly made two free throws to seal it. The Clippers realize what they've got in the All-Star point guard, who is 14th in the NBA in scoring and fourth in assists.

"It's not surprising anymore," Griffin said. "It's sad, because it's almost expected. He's already won a lot of games for us."

New acquisition Nick Young scored nine points and played most of the late minutes in his debut with Los Angeles, which hadn't won consecutive games since Feb. 15-16.

Jonas Jerebko had 14 points for the Pistons, who nursed a small lead throughout the fourth quarter of the teams' only meeting this season. Detroit managed just one field goal in the final 7:03 of regulation, allowing the Clippers' rally.

Detroit still played uncommonly aggressive defence, frustrating Griffin and largely eliminating Los Angeles' favoured lob passes, while playing a small lineup that forced Del Negro to sit centre DeAndre Jordan for much of the game after halftime.

"We needed to make it a grind-it-out type of game, and we did that," Detroit coach Lawrence Frank said. "We got into the moment of truth, and similar things happen that we just have to continue to get better at. We're putting ourselves in position, and the next step is learning how to finish out games."

Prince failed to score on two chances in the final 26 seconds of regulation, while Rodney Stuckey scored seven points on 1-of-8 shooting and appeared visibly frustrated, sitting out most of the overtime period. He failed to lead the Pistons in scoring for just the second time in their last nine games.

"There are some plays we could have made," Monroe said. "Everyone feels like we should have won this game, because we played hard for four quarters. A couple of loose balls, a couple of missed assignments, a missed block-out, and that's the difference."

Young, a Los Angeles native and USC product, wore No. 11 in his first game since arriving in a trade with Washington. The Clippers could use offence after losing Chauncey Billups for the season to a torn Achilles' tendon, and Young immediately got started on his new job by making an off-balance 20-footer shortly after checking in to start the second quarter.

"I didn't think I was going to play until right after shootaround," Young said. "I had to adjust my mindset, and I had to get my mom to come on down here."

NOTES: The Clippers don't get consecutive days off again until April 20-21, less than a week before the regular season ends. They leave town Monday for three road games in three nights at Indiana, Oklahoma City and Paul's homecoming in New Orleans before returning for yet another home game Saturday. ... Detroit gets the next two days off before concluding its road trip at Denver.

Chris Paul (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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