Clippers win again without Griffin, beating Hawks 85-83
ATLANTA (AP) — Amid all sorts of distractions, the Los Angeles Clippers just keep on winning.
This was an especially gutty performance.
Jamal Crawford scored 21 points, DeAndre Jordan foiled the “Hack-a-Shaq” strategy and the Clippers won again without Blake Griffin, holding off the mistake-prone Atlanta Hawks 85-83 on Wednesday night.
The Clippers won for the 14th time in 17 games, finishing off a five-game road trip with victories on back-to-back nights at Indiana and Atlanta.
“I would have taken this record healthy,” coach Doc Rivers said. “That was a heck of a win.”
The Hawks turned it over a season-high 23 times but still had a chance to force overtime when Chris Paul, guarded closely by Jeff Teague, lost the handle on an inbounds pass after Al Horford’s free throw.
Atlanta got it back with 6.7 seconds left and inbounded to Paul Millsap, who drove against Luc Mbah a Moute and got a good look at the basket but came up short on a running one-hander.
“I came up short pretty much all night,” said Millsap, who missed a similar shot with 8.9 seconds left that would’ve given Atlanta the lead. “A lot of shots I normally make didn’t fall. It was that kind of night for me.”
Los Angeles improved to 13-3 since Griffin went out with a partially torn left quad tendon. The star forward was on the verge of returning when he broke his shooting hand by punching a staff member, putting him out for an additional 4-to-6 weeks.
Griffin was sent home but apologized for the incident on Twitter late Tuesday.
His teammates picked up the slack. Again.
“We always have a flare for the dramatic,” said Paul, who had 11 points and 10 assists.
Jordan scored 13 points and grabbed 19 rebounds. Most importantly, he made the Hawks pay when they tried to get the ball back by intentionally fouling him, knocking down 6 of 8 free throws in the fourth quarter.
Finally, in the closing minutes, coach Mike Budenholzer threw up his hands and told his players to back off from Jordan.
Both teams looked ragged — not surprising with the Hawks coming off a weeklong West Coast road trip, while the Clippers were finishing up their East Coast run.
Atlanta shot just 42 percent (33 of 79) and eclipsed the 22 turnovers it had at Indiana on Dec. 28. It was only the fourth time all season the Hawks had as many as 20 turnovers.
“That killed us,” said Teague, who led Atlanta with 16 points.
The Clippers connected on just 39 percent (33 of 85) from the field, including a dismal 5-of-27 showing from behind the 3-point arc.
Atlanta built a nine-point lead — the biggest for either team — in the third quarter. But Crawford came off the bench to spark the Clippers, who closed the gap to 66-64 heading to the final period.
“Their bench played really well,” Teague said. “They came in and gave their team a lot of energy.”
BACK IN THE A-T-L
Rivers said he still gets recognized when he returns to Atlanta, where he played with the Hawks from 1983-91.
“You go places, you run into people all the time,” he said. “I’m always amazed at the young people who say, ‘Hey, I was a Hawks fan when you played.’ I’m like, ‘No way. You’re too young.’ But it’s nice. The city has a good memory.”
Rivers played with the Hawks during one of the more successful eras in team history, when they were led by Hall of Famer Dominique Wilkins, who is now a Hawks broadcaster.
Rivers jokingly took a shot at his former teammate in light of the Clippers’ troubles.
“I’ll tell ’Nique he’s low maintenance now,” the coach said, smiling.
Wilkins nodded when informed of Rivers’ comments.
“It’s a whole different ballgame these days,” the former Hawks star said.
Clippers: Rivers considered giving 38-year-old Paul Pierce the night off and he wound up playing less than 15 minutes, least among the starters, after going 23 minutes the night before. ... Los Angeles scored 17 points off Atlanta turnovers. ... Rivers said Griffin “most likely” will rejoin the team for its next game.
Hawks: Assigned C Walter “Edy” Tavares to the Austin Spurs of the NBA Development League to get some playing time. The rookie has been in nine D-League games this season, averaging 10.9 points, 10.6 rebounds and 2.7 blocks. ... Justin Holiday was inactive for the fifth game in a row. ... All five starters scored in double figures.
Clippers: Host the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night.
Hawks: Travel to Indiana on Thursday to meet the Pacers.