LOS ANGELES (AP) — Blake Griffin and Chris Paul can rest a little easier when they get a breather these days. The Los Angeles Clippers have a strong group of reserves ready to pick up the slack.
Jamal Crawford, Eric Bledsoe and Matt Barnes engineered a big fourth-quarter run to help the Clippers beat the Atlanta Hawks 89-76 on Sunday.
Griffin scored 16 points and Paul had 15 points and eight assists. But it was the backups who played a key role in the pivotal 15-1 surge in the final period.
"It's fun to watch, and it's exciting for our team," Paul said. "We really feed off their energy, and it's a huge advantage for us. Guys like Matt Barnes, Ryan Hollins and Ronny Turiaf, they know who they are in this league. And that's the key to everything. They're not going to try to do anything outside of themselves or be something they're not. And that's why we have confidence in them."
The Clippers' reserves outscored their counterparts 35-32, marking the first time in five games this season the Hawks were outscored in the battle of the benches. Atlanta had a 47-28 advantage against Houston, a 47-32 margin over Oklahoma City, and entered this game with a 41.8 scoring average by the reserves.
"We come in and change the pace and bring energy," Bledsoe said. "For the most part, we have the same defensive instincts as the starters. Everybody knows what everyone else is capable of and what we have to do. Ronny and Ryan know how to play great defense as big men. They talk and let us know when the screens are coming and when they're not. That's a good feeling, when you know your teammates have your back."
Crawford, who won the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year award in 2010 while playing for Atlanta, had 11 points after coming in with a team-high 21.8 average — tops among the league's reserves. Fifth-year center DeAndre Jordan, coming off the first back-to-back 20-point games of his NBA career, finished with eight points.
Josh Smith had 13 points for the Hawks, who shot 41.7 percent from the field in the opener of a four-game road trip. They also committed 22 turnovers that were converted into 24 Clippers points.
"Defense is more important than anything," Crawford said. "Offense comes and goes, and it can muck up the game sometimes. But today we were able to get out and really get after it defensively. That was the difference in the game. That's something we know we can do every single game, because we practice against the starters — who aren't too shabby. So whenever you practice against a group like that, you get more confidence and it makes you better."
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