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Paul, Griffin lead Clippers past Hornets

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Associated Press
3/28/2013 12:43:42 AM
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NEW ORLEANS -- Chris Paul and Blake Griffin made their share of timely plays and otherwise enjoyed the perimeter shooting exhibition put on by the Los Angeles Clippers' supporting cast.

Even Chauncey Billups made a difference during the 13 minutes he tested his nagging right groin injury. It added up to the kind of comfortable victory the Clippers needed on the heels of an overtime loss at Dallas a night earlier.

Griffin scored 19 points, Paul had 16 points, nine assists and four steals, and the Clippers beat the New Orleans Hornets 105-91 on Wednesday night.

"With Blake rolling, and us spacing the court, if we make shots we're a tough team to play," Paul said. "It's a good bounce-back win for us, coming off an overtime loss, a tough game like that in Dallas."

Caron Butler and Jamal Crawford each scored 13 for the Clippers, who built a 13-point lead in the middle of the fourth quarter and thereafter had little trouble finishing off a victory that pulled them ahead of Denver for the third-best record (49-23) in the Western Conference.

"You should have seen last night on the plane and on the bus. Guys felt terrible," Crawford said. "Games like this couldn't come fast enough for us. We just wanted to get back on track."

Returning from a three-game absence, Billups added 11 points before sitting out most of the second half, again because of tightness in his groin.

"It was a little bit sore and I just want to be smart with it, see the big picture," Billups said. "It's frustrating being in and out like that, but I just want to try to get healthy because the only way I'm going to be able to help the team is if I'm healthy."

Eric Gordon scored 24 and Anthony Davis had 19 points and nine rebounds for New Orleans, which had its three-game winning streak snapped.

"For the most part we forgot a bit about how we won these past three games: Defending, moving the ball and playing with a level of force that's necessary to have a chance," Hornets coach Monty Williams said. "Even when we scored, they were hard scores."

The Clippers combined for 13 3-pointers on 29 attempts, with Billups and Crawford each hitting three.

Robin Lopez scored 13 for New Orleans, which outshot Los Angeles, 49.3 per cent (35 of 71) to 46.6 per cent (34 of 73). But New Orleans missed 10 of 14 from deep and turned the ball over 12 times, leading to 20 Clippers points.

"We kind of beat ourselves. We really didn't move the ball very well and we took tough shots," Hornets forward Ryan Anderson said. "We didn't really battle. We just didn't have it like we had the last couple of games."

Los Angeles led by 11 early in the third quarter after Willie Green hit a 3 and Griffin added a couple free throws, but Gordon and Davis helped the Hornets close the gap. Gordon had 12 points in the period, hitting a couple difficult driving floaters, one as he was fouled. Davis hit all five of his shots in the period, including several midrange jumpers.

Davis also converted a layup as he was fouled on a feed from Gordon, and Gordon's free throw cut the Clippers' lead to 79-77 heading into the fourth quarter.

Yet the Clippers soon were back up by 10 after Eric Bledsoe and Matt Barnes each hit 3s during an 8-0 run that made it 89-79.

"Our bench was amazing," Paul said. "That's very important, because down the stretch (the Hornets) tried to trap and tonight we were able to make them pay when we found Matt in the corner for the dagger."

The Clippers' lead grew to 98-85 after Griffin hit a short running hook and added a free throw with 4:27 left, and New Orleans did not threaten after that.

There were eight ties and 14 lead changes in a close first half in which neither team led by more than eight points. Lopez established himself early for New Orleans with 11 first-half points, mostly inside with a short baseline jumper mixed in.

New Orleans led 37-30 after Brian Roberts hit consecutive 3s. Then Paul, who had a quiet first quarter, started to get more involved.

He set up Billups' 3 for one of his five second-quarter assists and added and jumper and foul shot.

As the half came to a close, the Clippers made four straight 3s -- two each by Butler and Billups -- including one that Billups banked off the backboard. The shots resulted in a 12-3 run to close the quarter, putting Los Angeles ahead 56-48 at halftime.

NOTES: DeAndre Jordan had 11 rebounds to go with a fast-break alley-oop jam on a lob from Paul. ... The fans in courtside seats included Davis' college coach, Kentucky's John Calipari, as well as actress Lori Loughlin and Saints head coach Sean Payton. ... The Clippers continue their road trip Friday at San Antonio. ... The Hornets continue their home stand Friday against Miami, which saw its 27-game winning streak end Wednesday night in Chicago.

Chris Paul (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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