Winning LA: Clippers atop NBA; Lakers win 5 in row

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 26, 2012 at 3:10 am •  Published: December 26, 2012
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Crawford's 3-pointer to open the fourth pushed the lead to 20 and kept the Clippers' starters on the bench for the final 12 minutes.

Denver rallied in the third, using a 15-6 spurt to close to 73-63, capped by Andre Iguodala's free throw after Paul received a technical foul.

The Clippers answered with three consecutive 3-pointers, including two by Willie Green from the opposite corners, for an 84-67 lead. The Nuggets ran off seven in a row to get within 10 before the Clippers regrouped with a 9-2 run, capped by Paul's 3-pointer, that kept them ahead 93-76 heading into the fourth.

"They have a confidence right now that's pretty powerful," Nuggets coach George Karl said.

The Clippers stretched their lead to 67-48 at halftime with 42 points in the second, their highest-scoring quarter this season. The bench got things going with a 14-10 run before Paul replaced a wild Eric Bledsoe. His presence settled down the second unit until Griffin and DeAndre Jordan eventually came back in during a 28-10 run the rest of the period that produced the Clippers' first double-digit lead. Driving dunks by Barnes and Griffin, alley-oop dunks by Griffin and Jordan, and consecutive 3-pointers by Barnes and Paul highlighted the scoring binge.

"When we are at our best our starters have a great first quarter and our bench elevates that," Griffin said.

In the opening game at Staples, the Knicks were in control most of the way behind Anthony and J.R. Smith, who had 24 points. But they struggled offensively in the fourth, when Anthony was limited to seven points and Smith had five as the Lakers' defense clamped down. World Peace fouled out with 1:58 to play and the Lakers ahead by four.

Steve Nash said of World Peace: "This is what he's been doing all year. He gets his hands on a lot of balls, pounds on the other team's best guy. You can't win without that type of effort."

Smith's 3-pointer pulled New York to 96-94. After Pau Gasol made one of two free throws, Smith missed another 3 that would have tied the game at 97 with 32 seconds left.

"We missed a lot of easy shots, a lot of little chippers around the basket, shots that we normally make," Anthony said. "There were some plays that we thought should have went our way down the stretch, but for the most part, we fought. I'll take this effort any night. If we continue to play with this effort, we'll win a lot of games."

With Bryant double-teamed, Nash passed to Gasol, who dunked with 12 seconds to go, punctuating a win that sent Lakers fans, frustrated by the team's struggles and coaching change, home happy. The Lakers avenged a 116-107 loss in New York on Dec. 13.



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