Clippers’ bench the key to victory over Raptors
LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Clippers were lacking energy through three quarters. Their backups came in and changed the game again.
Jamal Crawford led a fourth-quarter rally by the reserves with 16 points and the Clippers defeated Toronto 102-83 on Sunday to win their sixth in a row while handing the Raptors their 10th consecutive road loss.
The backups gave Los Angeles its first double-digit lead of the game after Toronto kept it close through the first three periods before dropping its fourth straight and 10th in its last 11. The Raptors have just four wins this season.
Eric Bledsoe added 14 points on his 23rd birthday to help the Clippers’ reserves outscore their counterparts 47-24.
Blake Griffin led the Clippers with 19 points. Chris Paul added 16 points and DeAndre Jordan had 10 rebounds. Caron Butler was the only starter to play in the fourth, coming in only after Matt Barnes was ejected with 1:36 to play.
Los Angeles’ reserves dominated the final period for the third straight game, turning Griffin and Paul into cheerleaders.
“As long as I’ve been in the league, through 20 games I’ve never played this least amount of minutes,” Paul said. “I should have no arguments about being tired. I’m also enjoying cheering on guys out there playing. We like to see each other succeed.”
Each one of the 10 Clippers who played had at least one basket, including Ronny Turiaf, who had six points and roared after one dunk.
“With two or three minutes to go, he was out there dancing and then went and got a rebound and a dunk. It keeps everybody loose,” Griffin said. “To be able to sit the whole fourth quarter is something I’ve never experienced.”
Crawford’s streak of consecutive free throws ended at 58 when he missed two late in the second quarter for his first errant foul shots since Nov. 3.
Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan scored 24 points in his hometown. Linas Kleiza, who started in place of injured Mickael Pietrus, added 17 points, including five 3-pointers. Amir Johnson had 11 points and 12 rebounds.
“It came out of nowhere,” DeRozan said of the Clippers’ surge. “We just didn’t score and we couldn’t get any stops, and they took advantage of it. They’re the deepest team in the league. They’ve got a lot of talented players that are capable of being starters in this league. They don’t go outside their element and try to do too much.”
Los Angeles outscored the Raptors 25-10 in the fourth, led by Bledsoe with 10 points. The Raptors managed one field goal over the final nine minutes.
“That’s all defence,” Crawford said. “Whenever you get a team stagnant and they can’t score, it’s defence.”
Barnes and John Lucas tangled on the baseline and were called for double technicals after Crawford missed a 3-pointer. Referees dragged Barnes away and both players were ejected, bringing Butler back in.
“They locked in on defence and we stopped moving the ball from side to side, which was the key for us in the first three quarters,” said Andrea Bargnani, who had 12 points for the Raptors. “They ran the floor, which is what they do, and we let them do that.”
Los Angeles led for much of a back-and-forth third, with its biggest margin of six points coming on a basket by Paul. The Raptors got timely 3-pointers from Kleiza and DeRozan, who had 11 points in the period. The Clippers were 9 of 15 from the free throw line.
“That’s one of the most talented teams in the league, but I thought our defence was on par in the first half until the middle part of the third quarter, when I thought it went south,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. “We knew it was a matter of time before Crawford and those guys were going to get going, so we wanted to make it tough on them. We did, but you’ve got to do it for 48 minutes.”
The Clippers’ second unit sparked a 15-11 stretch to start the second quarter and extend their lead to 40-32. Griffin, Paul and Jordan then returned only to be outscored 15-4, and Toronto carried a 47-44 advantage into halftime. The Clippers shot just 36 per cent in the half, when their largest lead was eight.
Los Angeles opened the game by outscoring the Raptors 17-10, but Toronto closed within four by the end of the first quarter.