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Griffin, Paul push Clippers past Heat

The SportsXchange

LOS ANGELES -- In a matchup of two superstar-driven teams, the Los Angeles Clippers' Big Two outlasted the Miami Heat's Big Three.

Blake Griffin had 20 points, 14 rebounds and six assists, and Chris Paul added 16 points, 10 assists and four steals to lead the Clippers to a 107-100 win over the Heat on Wednesday night at Staples Center.

After a close first half that featured 14 lead changes, Los Angeles took control late in the third quarter with a 16-6 run. Paul scored 13 points during the five-minute stretch. He hit two deep 3-pointers, including one from 32 feet, and he made seven of seven free throws as the Clippers (6-2) went up 11.

LeBron James compiled 30 points, seven assists and five rebounds to lead Miami, which had won five of six after a 20-point loss to New York on Nov. 2. Dywane Wade added only six points and six rebounds to go along with five turnovers, and Chris Bosh contributed 11 points and nine rebounds for the Heat (6-3).

Miami, which led by two at the half, shot 1-for-5 from 3-point range in the third while the Clippers hit 5-of-9 and finished with 10 3-pointers for the game.

"That was a tough span for us," Wade said. "Chris Paul is one of those guys who can turn it on whenever he wants to. He can play opossum the whole game and then just turn it up offensively and make it tough for you."

After Los Angeles built up the lead, the Clippers turned it over to their deep bench for much of the fourth quarter. The Clippers' second unit grew the lead to as much as 20 on a Jamal Crawford 17-foot jump shot with 5:36 left before Miami 16-3 run to close the game.

"We don't want a drop off," Crawford said. "Our starting unit is among the best in the NBA, and we don't want a drop off. We want those guys to feel comfortable when we're in. There is a sense of pride with our second unit. To win in this league and win big, you've got to have a bench; five guys can only do so much."

Crawford had 22 points off the bench for the Clippers, who won the close battle on the strength of free-throw shooting. Los Angeles hit 27 of 32 free throws (84.4 percent), while the Heat made 21 of 29 from the free-throw line (72.4 percent).

"I think they were just more efficient," said Miami forward Shane Battier, who scored nine points. "They shot more free throws than us, probably shot a better percentage from (3-point range), and those are killers. Those are things we want to do.

"It's tough to get outscored from 3-point range and the free-throw line on the road and still try to win."

In the first half, the teams' biggest stars played a little game of give-and-take, but Crawford and Heat forward Rashard Lewis stole the show.

It was a back-and-forth game for almost the entire half as Griffin (13 points) and James (11) dueled. Los Angeles claimed a six-point lead less than two minutes into the game, but then neither team led by more than three until Miami claimed a five-point advantage with less than two minutes left. Caron Butler eventually cut the Heat's halftime lead to two on a 3-pointer with 1.5 seconds left.

Lewis had all 11 of his points in the first half, helping the Heat claim a 54-52 halftime lead. Crawford led the Clippers with 14 first-half points.

"Their bench is legit; they have proven guys," Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said of the Clippers. "They've all been stars before, and right now they are sacrificing to be a part of this. There is no question it helps them out."

Miami, which lost by more than 18 points in each of its other two defeats this season, found little solace in trimming the final deficit.

"There are no moral victories in this locker room," Battier said.

NOTES: Chauncey Billups (Achilles) and Grant Hill (knee) remain out for the Clippers, and neither has played this year. Billups is expected to return in roughly three weeks, while there is no timetable for Hill's return. ... Miami center Dexter Pittman continues to nurse a strained quad. He also has not played this season. ... The Clippers won the teams' lone matchup last season, 95-89 in overtime on Jan. 11.
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