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Clippers 96, Hornets 93

The SportsXchange

NEW ORLEANS -- Chris Paul made an 18-foot jumper and six free throws in the final minute to awaken the slumbering Los Angeles Clippers and lift them to a 96-93 victory over the undermanned New Orleans Hornets on Friday night at the New Orleans Arena.

Paul scored 17 points -- including nine points in the final 52.3 seconds -- to give the Clippers their fourth consecutive victory and put them in good position going into Saturday's road showdown with fourth-seeded Memphis.

Paul also had 14 assists for his 30th double-double of the season. Blake Griffin added 20 points for the Clippers (53-26).

The Hornets led 75-65 with 8:31 left, but the Clippers went on a 14-6 run, including five straight, to draw within 81-79 with 3:33 remaining. After the hornets went back up 85-81, the Clippers closed the final two minutes with a 15-8 spurt to put the game away.

Eric Gordon led the Hornets (27-53) with a game-high 25 points.

Despite poor free throw shooting, the Hornets outworked the Clippers most of the game. The Hornets used a 13-2 run over a 4:32 stretch of the third quarter to take a 61-53 lead. Ryan Anderson had five points in the spurt, and Gordon and Roberts had four points each, and the Hornets led 63-57 on the strength of a 23-14 third quarter in which the Clippers shot 31.6 percent.

The Clippers came out sluggish, looking as though they were thinking about Saturday night's important road showdown with Memphis. The Clippers missed 12 of their first 14 3-point attempts, and Paul made his first field goal with 3:51 left in the second quarter.

The Hornets, meanwhile, wasted several chances to build a lead. New Orleans missed its first 10 3-point attempts before Brian Roberts nailed a long-range jumper from the right wing 18 seconds before halftime to draw New Orleans within 43-40.

The Hornets also went just 5 of 16 from the foul line in the first half, but they stayed close because of Robin Lopez's 15 points and eight rebounds.

The Clippers opened the game with three thunderous dunks in the first 90 seconds -- two by Griffin -- but they shot 15 of 39 the rest of the half (38.5 percent) the rest of the half. The Clippers bench outscored undermanned New Orleans, 17-5.

NOTES: Both Denver and Memphis, the third and fifth seeds in the West, respectively, had advance scouts at the game to keep tabs on the Clippers. "We have our advance guy traveling and seeing teams play," said Coach Vinny Del Negro. "There's so much analytical stuff and scouting, but at the end of the day you have to put your scouting reports together from previous games that teams are tweaking and changing." ... Clippers guard Chauncey Billups did not play because of a strained right groin. ... Hornets rookie forward Anthony Davis sprained the medial collateral ligament in his left knee in a loss to Sacramento on Wednesday night and will miss the final three games of the season. An MRI revealed there was no structural damage to his knee, and Davis will not need surgery. Davis suffered the injury taking a charge against Marcus Thornton late in the fourth quarter. Davis averaged 18.8 points and 9.8 rebounds in his previous four games and 13.5 points and 8.2 rebounds for the entire season. "We're blessed that it's not an ACL or anything crazy like that," said Hornets coach Monty Williams. "It gave me pause for a second because it's a situation I've tried to avoid all season -- him getting hurt. He's taken a beating all season." ... New Orleans point guard Greivis Vasquez also sat out with a sprained left ankle.
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