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Clippers' new trio hits the right notes

Chris Paul, Chauncey Billups, Caron Butler make the big plays late while Blake Griffin does his part in opening win.

December 25, 2011|By Broderick Turner

Reporting from Oakland -- It was just one step for the Clippers, and that step was wobbly at times.

But in the end, when the Clippers needed the right plays to be made in their season opener against the Golden State Warriors, when they needed the right people to step into the void, it was their three newcomers who provided the lift.

Chris Paul, Chauncey Billups and Caron Butler, three players the Clippers acquired just this month, put the finishing touches on a 105-86 victory over the Warriors on Sunday night at Oracle Arena.

"We were bobbing and weaving a little bit," Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro said. "But our guys hung in there."

It wasn't as if Blake Griffin was left out of the mix. He did have 22 points and seven rebounds.

It was just that when the Clippers put the game away, Paul (20 points, nine assists), Billups (21 points on six-for-19 shooting) and Butler (11 points, 10 rebounds) were in the middle of it all.

After Golden State pulled to within one point midway through the fourth quarter, the Clippers went on a 15-3 run to open a 97-84 lead that spelled the end of the Warriors.

Paul had six of the points, Billups five and Butler two plus a steal.

Mo Williams, a starter last season and now a reserve, started the run with a basket.

"Having the veteran guys, they can control the tempo," Del Negro said. "For the first game, the first step on the road, for a new group, obviously I'm pleased with the way we performed and came back in the second half."

Their fourth-quarter play effectively counteracted a tactic employed by Golden State Coach Mark Jackson in the third period.

Remember hack-a- Shaq? Well, get ready for hack-a-Jordan.

That's what Jackson tried late in the third quarter against Clippers center DeAndre Jordan, a terrible free-throw shooter — the same thing Shaquille O'Neal often encountered when he played.

And it worked Sunday.

It began with 3 minutes 33 seconds left in the third, when Jackson had Jordan intentionally fouled four times before he was pulled out at the 2:48 mark.

Jordan was three for eight during that span, one of them an air ball. And it was clear he was frustrated — at himself, and because the measure was successful.

Jordan's four-for-12 free-throw shooting for the night contributed mightily to the Clippers' making just 23 of 38 (60.5%) as a team. Griffin was four for eight.

Jordan has made just 41.4% of his free throws over his three-year career.

"In my head I was like, 'Here we go,'" Jordan said of his thoughts when he was first fouled in the third. "I'm definitely disappointed in the way I shot from the line, but I can't harp on it. It's not like I don't work on it in practice."

It's becoming clear that the Clippers also need to be a better rebounding team. They began the game getting outrebounded by the Warriors, 10-1.

They were outrebounded 30-20 in the first half, but closed that margin to 48-43 for the game.

So there was progress made on that front in the second half.

And it was a game in which the Clippers pulled away with a 30-18 fourth quarter, winning by 19 points.

"We ended up winning by 15-plus," Griffin said. "I don't want to look around this locker room and see guys sad. I don't want to feel sad. It's a W."

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