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Clippers' stars steal show in win over Lakers

The SportsXchange

LOS ANGELES -- In the span of one season, the Los Angeles Clippers have transformed from a two-man army, The Blake and Chris Show, into a deep squad, with one of the best benches in the NBA.

Every so often, though, the stars come out at night and light up Staples Center. Against Kobe Bryant and Co., it was bound to happen.

Chris Paul had a double-double in the first half and finished with 30 points and 13 assists and Blake Griffin had 24 points to lead the Clippers to a 107-102 win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night at Staples Center.

Without leading reserve Jamal Crawford, who was sidelined by a sore foot suffered Tuesday in their win streak-snapping loss at Denver, the Clippers turned to their two brightest stars to defeat the Lakers for the second time this season.

Paul, who had 11 fourth-quarter points, made a fadeaway jumper over Kobe Bryant with 27 seconds left to put the Lakers away after the Clippers nearly surrendered a huge second-half lead. The Clippers led by as much as 19 in the second half before the Lakers trimmed it to as little as three.

Griffin had 24 points, including 10 points in the third quarter, when the Clippers shot 11 for 20 from the field and had seven assists.

"We made a few timely shots," Paul said. "It's about time we made one -- the last four minutes we had some terrible possessions, which were pretty much my fault. ... Every time I looked over at the bench, coach was yelling over at me to shoot. It felt good. It felt good to be a little aggressive tonight."

Added Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro: "Missing Jamal, not having Chauncey (Billups) and Grant (Hill), I thought Chris and Blake made some big plays. They had some big hoops down the stretch for us. We made it a little hard on ourselves, but we battled all night."

Matt Barnes had eight points in the second quarter off the bench for the Clippers, who jumped back into the win column after losing two straight following a team-record 17-game winning streak. Reserves Lamar Odom had nine points and Eric Bledsoe eight as the Clippers' bench shot 12 of 23 while the Lakers' shot just 7 of 21.

Bryant had 38 points to lead the Lakers, and Dwight Howard added 21 points and 15 rebounds before fouling out with just over a minute left. Howard bounced back from a poor shooting performance in the team's 103-99 loss to Philadelphia on New Year's Day, when he shot just 1 for 7 from the field.

The Lakers' long-distance shooting woes continued as they hit just 6 of 25 from 3-point range, with Jodie Meeks struggling to find any success. He had 14 points but shot just 3 of 13 from the field and 2 for 8 from 3-point range.

"We were pressing a little bit," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said. "I thought we were missing some easy shots in the first half that would've helped."

Paul had 12 points and 11 assists at the break as he lifted the Clippers to a 61-51 halftime lead. The Clippers shot 54.3 percent in the first half and led by as much as 18 points with just more than eight minutes left in the first half. The Lakers trimmed the lead to four after a 19-5 run, but the Clippers went on a mini-run to close the second quarter to claim the 10-point halftime lead.

"Chris can be so unselfish," Del Negro said. "I'd like him to shoot more. He does such a great job getting guys the basketball. But tonight he knew he had to shoot a little bit more with Jamal out, and that's what he did.

"He put us on his back tonight."

NOTES: Bryant had 40 points to lead all scorers but the Lakers fell to the Clippers, 105-95, in the teams' first matchup this season. Crawford had 21 points and Paul had 18 points and 15 assists as the Clippers won an "away" game against the Lakers for the first time since 2007. ... Perhaps the biggest indication of the two teams' respective fortunes is bench scoring -- the Clippers ranked No. 2 in the NBA at 41.7 points per game entering the contest, while the Lakers ranked 26th with 25.8 bench points per game. ... According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Clippers are in some familiar company after losing their first two games after their 17-game winning streak -- the last four teams to win 17 straight lost their next two. ... The Clippers' three-game Pacific Division lead marks the latest in a season (34 games) that they've held sole possession of first place.
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