LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Clippers expected they'd be better once Chris Paul returned to the lineup. They just probably couldn't have imagined how much.
Blake Griffin had 26 points, 11 rebounds and six assists Sunday night as Los Angeles stormed out to a 31-point lead in the first quarter with its All-Star point guard back on the court and pummeled the Philadelphia 76ers 123-78.
"It felt great just to play. You never know what it's going to be like until you actually get out there and compete," Paul said. "A lot of things go through your mind out there, especially when you come back because you want to make sure you're not too tired and not trying too hard. But at the same time, we've been playing extremely well and I didn't want to break up our rhythm."
Jamal Crawford scored 21 for the defending Pacific Division champions, who were 12-6 while Paul was sidelined with a right shoulder he separated Jan. 3 at Dallas. The seven-time All-Star point guard showed no signs of rust, getting seven points and eight assists in 23 minutes.
"He set the tone," Crawford said. "The energy from when he was introduced, to the level of play that he brings, it makes everybody better."
DeAndre Jordan had 20 rebounds and 10 points, helping Los Angeles increase its division lead over idle Phoenix to four games.
The 45-point margin of victory was the largest for the Clippers' franchise. The previous record was 39, set in a 121-82 win over Chicago on Nov. 24 at Staples Center.
"That's an intense, defensive-oriented athletic type of team. We ran into a buzz saw and we got jumped early," Sixers coach Brett Brown said. "What an incredible opportunity for a young point guard like Michael Carter-Williams to see Chris Paul play and to play against him."
Carter-Williams, who leads all rookies in scoring, rebounding and assists per game, finished with 14 points, five assists and seven boards in 34½ minutes. Tony Wroten scored 21 points off the bench for the 76ers, losers of six straight and 13 of 16. Center Spencer Hawes missed all eight shots in 23 scoreless minutes and had just two rebounds.
Paul's return provided an instant spark, as the Clippers opened the game with a 13-0 run that included a pair of 3-pointers by Crawford off Philadelphia turnovers. They widened the gap to 30-5 while the 76ers missed 17 of their first 19 shots.
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