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Clippers have enough in reserve to beat Raptors

Jamal Crawford and Eric Bledsoe combine for 30 points to lead the backups on a rally that helps defeat Toronto, 102-83.

December 09, 2012|By Lisa Dillman

Lob City gave way to Reserve City.


Two games in two days at Staples Center unfolded in wildly similar fashion for the surging Clippers as the reserves provided a much-needed jolt of fourth-quarter energy and verve.

It seemed as though the only real difference was the opponent and the final score as the Clippers beat the Toronto Raptors, 102-83, on Sunday afternoon, finishing with a 21-4 run. It was the Clippers' sixth straight victory and the 10th consecutive road loss for the struggling Raptors.

And one other difference from Saturday's victory over the Phoenix Suns: Clippers reserve Jamal Crawford finally missed a free throw, in the second quarter, after having made 58 straight, a team record. He promptly missed his next one too.

Later, he would joke about starting a new streak. Undoubtedly, the run of fourth-quarter bailouts by the reserves won't continue. It would have been the third straight game and fourth in five that the Clippers' starters did not play in the fourth quarter.

(That changed when Clippers reserve Matt Barnes was ejected with 1:36 remaining after a brief tussle with Toronto's John Lucas, and starter Caron Butler reentered the game.)

"Our bench came through, as usual. ... It's not always going to be like that. I just think the bench has performed well and they deserve to be out there. But that's not always going to be the case and everybody has got to be ready to play," said Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro.

Blake Griffin led the Clippers, falling one rebound short of a double-double, finishing with 19 points and nine rebounds. Chris Paul had 16 points and DeAndre Jordan had seven points and 10 rebounds.

Off the bench, Crawford and Eric Bledsoe, who celebrated his 23rd birthday Sunday, combined for 30 points. Crawford's fourth-quarter offensive surge led the way against the Suns on Saturday afternoon.

Former USC star DeMar DeRozan, playing before family and friends, led the Raptors with 24 points, and Linas Kleiza added 17. Toronto hit 10 three-pointers.

Toronto's Coach Dwane Casey lauded the Clippers before the game, putting them with the likes of Miami and San Antonio, saying: "They have a chance to win it all."

The Clippers' reserves held the Raptors to 10 points in the fourth quarter, and Toronto went nearly nine minutes without a field goal. There was a seismic shift in momentum starting with the Clippers leading 81-79 with 9:06 remaining in the game.

They went on a 21-1 run, which included a four-point play from Crawford, and the Raptors' finally hit a three-pointer with 19.2 seconds remaining.

Griffin admitted it was a new feeling, being a fourth-quarter spectator. The starters were reviewing the bench, and, in particular, the moves of Ronny Turiaf, who had six points, including a crowd-pleasing dunk.

"At one point, he started dancing," Griffin said. "There was like, two, three minutes left and he was out there dancing. It's like, 'What is he doing?' Then he got a rebound and went down and dunked. He keeps everybody loose."

Paul agreed.

"Nothing like seeing Ronny Turiaf's energy out there," he said. "When you've got people as well-spirited as our team, how can you not cheer for LO [Lamar Odom]? How can you not cheer when Eric Bledsoe does something well? Or Jamal Crawford?"

All this depth means that the Clippers' practices get, well, a bit spirited, at times.

"We have to remind each other we're all on the same team. It's very competitive," Paul said. "That's what makes us so good, so lethal, and why we cheer for each other so much.

"I go against Eric Bledsoe in practice every day. He's guarding me. You know how he steals the balls from guys out here. When I get in the game and it's not Eric Bledsoe on me, you almost feel like you're in a rocking chair."

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