Clippers use warming trend in fourth quarter to beat Warriors

Clippers use warming trend in fourth quarter to beat Warriors
Clippers forward Blake Griffin lets out a yell in frustration during the Christmas Day game against the Warriors. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

All the Clippers wanted for Christmas in the first quarter Thursday was to make a shot.

They missed 16 consecutive attempts during one stretch at Staples Center, their futility taking Coach Doc Rivers' oft-repeated contention that the NBA is a make-miss league to a new extreme.

They would prove the other half of that catchphrase in the fourth quarter.

A hot shooting stretch carried the Clippers to a 100-86 runaway victory over the Golden State Warriors that qualified as their best triumph of the season.

Chris Paul and Blake Griffin shrugged off horrid starts in which they combined to miss all 10 shots in the first quarter, Paul finishing with 22 points and four assists and Griffin collecting 18 points and 15 rebounds.

"It really came down to mental toughness, the team that had the ability to hang in there, and we did that," Rivers said.

The Clippers turned a three-point advantage into a 20-point lead by making nine of their first 13 shots in the fourth quarter, creating a finish festive for fans who groaned when shots kept clanging off the rim during a first quarter in which they made four of 24 shots (16.7%).

The Warriors had their own shooting problems. Stephen Curry made five of 12 shots and scored 14 points while being constantly harassed by Clippers defenders, and Klay Thompson made only six of 18 shots and had 15 points.

"Our defense kept us in the game," said Paul, who finished making seven of 18 shots.

Jamal Crawford added a team-high 24 points off the bench for the Clippers.

Golden State (23-5) lost two games to the Staples Center tenants over three days after having lost only three games over the season's first seven weeks. Of course, the Warriors were missing big men Andrew Bogut and Festus Ezeli, who were both playing when they routed the Clippers and Lakers earlier this season.

"It shows great growth," said Rivers, who lambasted his team after its 17-point loss to the Warriors in November. "We're better than we were the last time we played them."


Paul was a one-man highlight show in the third quarter, his eight points coming on a three-pointer, a crossover move that led to a layup and foul on Curry for a three-point play and a stutter-step move past Justin Holiday for a buzzer-beating layup that gave the Clippers a 73-70 advantage going into the fourth quarter.

DeAndre Jordan started the game with a rim-rattling two-handed dunk and things went haywire for the Clippers on offense from there.

Their next 16 shots went miss, miss, miss, miss, miss, miss, miss, miss, miss, miss, miss, miss, miss, miss, miss, miss. Mercifully, Jamal Crawford put an end to a stretch as hideous as Spencer Hawes' red-and-green Christmas tree suit by making a 15-foot jumper.

Griffin's shooting struggles worsened in the second quarter. He was 0 for 8 from the field before he drove for a dunk to give him his first points with 4:01 left in the first half.

The Clippers made only 13 of 47 shots (27.7%) in the first half but somehow were down only 42-41 at halftime. They ended the game shooting 39.1%.

Not pretty, but more than good enough.

Twitter: @latbbolch