When it became clear Blake Griffin wasn’t injured in the third quarter, the Clippers felt much better about their chances of beating a short-handed Brooklyn Nets team Saturday night at Staples Center.
Griffin had a strong game throughout, collecting a double-double with 30 points and 12 rebounds in helping the Clippers to a 110-103 victory over the Nets.
Chris Paul struggled most of the game, but he produced his 10th consecutive double-double, scoring 12 points and handing out 13 assists. Paul also had seven rebounds.
Paul was three for 12 from the field, but his two field goals late in the fourth helped the Clippers win their fourth consecutive game.
“We didn’t play with a lot of energy. You could see that,” said Clippers Coach Doc Rivers. “We turned it on and won the game. I’m happy about that.”
After Griffin grabbed a rebound in the third quarter, he began to limp downcourt after rolling his left foot. He went to the locker room with trainer Jasen Powell with 7:30 left in the third.
The Clippers were down, 65-54, when Griffin departed.
Griffin came back to the court with 5:15 left in the third and checked back into the game with 4:48 left in the third.
Then Griffin made his entrance into the game in style. He blocked a shot by Mason Plumlee and then raced downcourt for a layup that he was fouled on.
Griffin, who was 12 for 19 from the field, made the free throw for a three-point play that tied the score at 67-67 in the third.
“That was good that he was able to come back,” Rivers said. “It was scary when he got hurt, but he was fine.”
Then after a J.J. Redick (26 points) three-pointer, Griffin threw down a lob pass from Paul that gave the Clippers a 72-67 lead with 2:35 left in the third, forcing the Nets to call a timeout.
Though the Nets were playing without four of their starters, they still opened a 10-point lead in the first half and stretched it to 11 in the third quarter.
Kevin Garnett (sprained right ankle) and Paul Pierce (groin injury) had won an NBA championship in 2008 when they played for Rivers in Boston, but the two forwards were unable to play against their former coach.
Starting center Brook Lopez (ankle sprain), starting point guard Deron Williams (ankle sprain) and key reserve Andrei Kirilenko (back spasms) also didn’t play.
But that didn’t stop the Nets from playing hard, from playing as if they had a full team.
The Nets opened a 10-point lead on a three-point play by Jason Terry with 2:29 left in the second quarter.
That’s when the Clippers finally woke up.
The Clippers finished the first half on a 10-1 run to close to within 55-54 at halftime.
Griffin had 18 first-half points on seven-for-nine shooting and Redick added 12 points in the first half on five-for-eight shooting.
It was Paul who had troubles early.
He didn’t score his first two points until there was 3:42 left in the second quarter, and that was on two free throws.
Paul made his first field goal with 1:45 left in the second, on a three-pointer, helping him finish with seven first-half points.