Chauncey Billups is the big shot in Clippers’ 101-91 win
The Clippers were short-handed Monday, playing without maestro point guard Chris Paul and key reserve Mo Williams.
They were playing the first in a series of back-to-back-to-back games, and the first of five games in seven days, knowing this was a taxing part of their schedule.
So what do the Clippers do?
They bolted out to an early 18-point lead against the lowly New Jersey Nets, only to see it sliced until it was a tie game in the fourth quarter, and relied on Chauncey Billups to deliver the big shot for the 101-91 victory Monday at Staples Center.
Even though all five Clippers starters scored in double figures — led by Blake Griffin’s 23 points and 14 rebounds — Billups was the one who stepped into the void in more ways than one.
Billups, the 35-year-old veteran who started at point guard in place of Paul, was forced to play 34 minutes to ensure that the Clippers improved to 7-3.
It took a steely three-pointer by Billups late in the game, and his scoring nine of his 20 points in the fourth, for the Clippers to fend off the 3-11 Nets.
Billups was fully aware the Clippers still have games at Utah on Tuesday night and back at home Wednesday night against the defending NBA champion Dallas Mavericks.
He was just happy the Clippers started the stretch with a win considering they were without Paul, who sat out the game because of a strained left hamstring, and Williams, who sat out his second straight game because of a sore right foot.
Paul and Williams were traveling to Utah with the team, but neither is expected to play against the Jazz.
“It was key,” Billups said. “Those are two huge pieces that we are missing. But I’m going to be honest with you, man, Randy Foye came in and just played an unbelievable game.”
Foye started at shooting guard and had the assignment of defending Deron Williams.
Williams had 14 points on five-for-14 shooting, and six assists. Foye led the Clippers in assists with 10, and he had 13 points on six-for-17 shooting.
“I had D-Will tonight and Kobe [Bryant] Saturday night. It doesn’t get any easier,” Foye said, smiling. “I think about how flat my shot was. It was because of how much I had to chase D-Will.”
The Nets chased the Clippers until they whittled away at an 18-point, first-quarter lead, tying the score twice. The last time the game was tied was at 83-83.
Billups then took over.
He scored on a runner, made two free throws and hit a three-pointer with 1:09 left for a 97-89 Clippers lead.
“As you know, I love those moments,” said Billups, whose nickname is “Mr. Big Shot.” “It was a great play and I just knocked down the shot.”
The Clippers are also starting to show improvement on defense.
They held the Nets to 42.3% shooting. The Clippers also blocked eight shots, four by center DeAndre Jordan, who also had 12 points and nine rebounds.
Griffin even had one of his highlight-reel dunks, a right-hand-to-the-left-hand throw-down over Kris Humphries.
But the main thing was that the Clippers won their third straight game and sixth of their last seven.
“Especially with us having a couple of our key guys out, there’s no question this is an important one,” Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro said. “We have to find a way [Tuesday] night to get our energy up and play at a high level. We’re going to have to go in there very focused and ready to go to work.”
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