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Clippers blast Blazers to end four-game skid

The SportsXchange

LOS ANGELES -- This time, the Los Angeles Clippers finished what they started.

One night after surrendering the final 10 points of the game in an excruciating loss to the Trail Blazers, the Clippers reversed the result in a 96-83 victory over Portland at sold-out Staples Center.

In the process, the Clippers halted a four-game losing streak despite playing without star guard Chris Paul.

"We always need a win. It's always good," Clippers All-Star forward Blake Griffin said. "Especially at home and especially coming off four (losses) in a row."

With Paul watching from the bench for the fourth consecutive game due to a right knee bruise, the Clippers put together a consistent 48-minute effort for the first time in more than a week behind Griffin and a consistent attack.

Just as important, they played effectively on defense throughout, and that's been an issue for them as they slumped in Paul's absence.

Griffin, assuming more scoring and passing responsibility in the absence of Paul, scored 23 points, dished out nine assists and grabbed five rebounds in another well-rounded performance.

"He draws so much attention and he makes teammates better, which is what all All-Star players do," Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said.

This time, he had plenty of help on both ends of the court.

Among the starters, Caron Butler added 12 points and Eric Bledsoe had 10. The Clippers' bench played nearly the entire fourth quarter and maintained a double-digit lead. Lamar Odom, in particular, was effective in reserve, contributing eight points, 13 rebounds and six assists.

The Clippers handed out a season-high 33 assists and made 42 of 82 field-goal attempts (51.2 percent).

"Blake, with nine assists was kind of a point-forward for us tonight," Del Negro said. "(Bledsoe) had five and Lamar, he knows how to play, he was sharing the ball as well with six assists. Those three guys set the tone, but I think we were unselfish in a lot of areas. Moving the ball was obviously a key offensively, but more so I thought we were locked in better defensively, which translated to sharper offensive execution."

Clippers guard Jamal Crawford agreed.

"When we play with spirit, everybody gets involved somewhere," he said. "To have 33 assists and to have everybody involved like that and everybody standing up like that when something good happens, that is who we are. That's the way we were at the beginning of the season, and we are getting back to that now."

Odom added, "All we want to do is win and do the right things. We have so many players on this team and so much talent, and it's our focus to be the best team in the NBA."

Meanwhile, there were no big runs left in the Trail Blazers, who seemed to fade in the second half Sunday following their come-from-behind home win Saturday. Portland fell behind by 16 points after three quarters of the rematch and never challenged the rest of the way.

Portland's LaMarcus Aldridge had 21 points and 11 rebounds, his 10th double-double in January. Rookie point guard Damian Lillard added 16 points and five assists, and J.J. Hickson had 15 points and nine rebounds.

The Blazers, though, made just 29 of 66 shots (43.9 percent) and turned the ball over 19 times, including five giveaways by Lillard.

"We didn't take care of the ball, we had turnovers in the second half," Aldridge said. "I thought they had some easy breakouts that opened the game up."

And with the Clippers playing as efficiently as they have in more than a week, that just compounded the Blazers' problems.

"It's hard to beat the same team two times in a row, especially on back-to-back days," Lillard said. "They're a really good team. I think last night we did a better job of controlling their transition game, not giving up as many easy plays. That was really it."

NOTES: Paul has missed seven of the past nine games, and the Clippers remain unsure when he will return. With a huge trip looming -- the team will play eight games away from Los Angeles as Staples Center prepares for the Grammy Awards -- the Clippers hope to get him back at some point on the trip, although it seems unlikely he'll play at Minnesota or Toronto, the first two stops. ... Paul initially hurt his knee against the Magic on Jan. 12 and sat out the next three games -- all Clippers wins. ... Portland's Nicolas Batum, who registered the first two triple-doubles of his career this week, enjoys playing against the Clippers. He was averaging 21.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 8.5 assists in two meetings against them heading into Sunday's game. Batum had eight points, eight assists and six rebounds Sunday. ... Lillard was shooting 54.6 percent (6-of-11) from 3-point range against the Clippers this season before Sunday, when he went 2-for-7 from long range. He is averaging 17.3 points in three games against the Clippers.
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