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Clippers hold on, beat Heat, 95-89, in overtime

January 11, 2012 | 10:46 pm

Clips3The Clippers were eager to demonstrate that their remade lineup was ready to play with -- and beat -- the upper echelon of the NBA; the Miami Heat was trying to stall that process.

In front of a playoff-intensity sellout crowd at Staples Center Wednesday night, the Clippers made their statement in dramatic fashion, winning 95-89, in overtime.

Chris Paul led all scorers with 27 points, his best as a Clipper; Blake Griffin added 20 with 12 rebounds, Caron Butler had 20 and Chauncey Billups 12. LeBron James led Miami with 23 points, Mario Chalmers had 18, Dwyane Wade 17 and Chris Bosh 16.

Butler, DeAndre Jordan and Griffin scored for the Clippers in overtime. Jordan's dunk with 5.6 seconds left sealed it, and Miami Coach Eric Spoelstra was called for a technical and was ejected.

Randy Foye put the Clippers up, 76-75, with a long jumper with eight minutes left, but James responded with a drive to give Miami the lead again, keeping the upstart Clippers at bay. Neither team had been able to establish full control in a scrappy, physical game that had players scrambling on the floor for loose balls, and the Clippers held a very tenuous 83-82 lead when Miami called a timeout with 2:44 remaining.

Bosh tied it with a free throw with two minutes to play. After Griffin missed another outside shot (he was 8 for 21 at that point), James made one of two free throws for an 84-83 lead aith 1:21 to go. The Clippers called timeout with 32.4 seconds to play, and James was called for his fifth foul on a three-point attempt by Billups with 27 seconds left. Billups made them all and the Clippers led by two. No one was sitting in Staples. Miami timeout.

With the crowd chanting DEFENSE!, the Clippers appeared to force a turnover, but the call was overturned on review. James was fouled, made one of two and after the missed second free throw, the call on out of bounds went to Miami. That play was also reviewed, but Miami kept the ball, trailing by one with 14.7 to play.

With 5 seconds left, Jordan fouled James, who made the second of two shots to tie it and the Clippers called timeout. Paul missed a driving floater to send it to overtime.

Anticipation for this game was at an all-time high for the Clippers, who for the first time since, well, forever, are generating expectations that the team should make a deep run into the playoffs. And the Heat is precisely the kind of opponent the Clippers need to beat if they are actually moving into the world of successful playoff teams.

But entering the game, the Clippers hadn't yet had the kind of success befitting a top-level team. The Clippers' four victories, three of which came at Staples, were over teams with a combined record of 16-20 entering Wednesday's games. Their three losses, two on the road, were to teams with a combined record of 22-8. 

A victory over Miami would seriously alter those numbers ... and perception about this franchise on the move.

The Clippers, with Gordon and Paul providing virtually all of their scoring, trailed the Heat at halftime, 48-43. They spread the scoring around a bit at the start of the second half, but couldn't contain the Heat and still trailed by six, 58-52, midway through the period. Each time the Clippers made a run, the Heat answered.

Paul finally tied the score at 65-65, then gave the Clippers their first led of the second half, 68-67, with less than a minute in the period. And his feed to DeAndre Jordan for a dunk at the end of the period left the Clippers on top, 70-69.

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-- Mike James

Photo: Miami forward Chris Bosh,left, drives on Clippers forward Blake Griffin during the Clippers' overtime victory Wednesday. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

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