LeBron James vs. Blake Griffin: 3rd quarter, Clippers hanging on, 86-78
LeBron James and Blake Griffin were essentially even through two periods, the difference in the game being Griffin's teammates. The third quarter, of course, is traditionally a watershed moment for the Clippers ... and it's often a problem-filled 12 minutes.
Griffin got the Clippers off on the right foot with a putback basket, though he missed the free throw after being fouled.
Griffin drove the lane with 8:27 to play and Zydrunas Ilgauskas hit him in the face for a flagrant 1 foul. Griffin made one of two free throws, as is often the case in one of the few so-so elements of his game.
The Clippers then went cold, and Chris Bosh, with just over seven minutes left, made two free throws to cut the lead to 73-67. The specter of a Clippers collapse loomed, and they called a timeout with 6:13 left, holding onto what appeared to be a very tenuous five-point lead.
James threw down an alley-oop dunk and Dwyane Wade's two free throws suddenly made it a three-point game as the Clippers' offense devolved into one-on-one basketball. (Sound familiar, Clippers fans?) James helped the Clippers' cause a bit with two missed free throws that could have made it a one-point game, then on the next possession threw up an airball on a largely uncontested 18-footer. Eric Gordon's subsequent drive pushed the Clippers' lead back to seven, 82-75.
Gordon began taking over with another drive to push the lead back to nine in the closing two minutes.
Score after three: Clippers 86, Heat 78.
Griffin: 18 points, 11 rebounds, five assists, for his 24th consecutive double-double.
Photo: LeBron James shoots over Blake Griffin. Credit: Jae C. Hong / Associated Press