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Miami Heat leads Clippers at halftime, 48-43

January 11, 2012 |  8:55 pm

Blake3In a high-energy, physical game that lived up to the hype, the Miami Heat and Clippers went at it from the start, with Blake Griffin, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul doing just the kind of things that make them NBA superstars. At halftime, the Heat led the Clippers, 48-43.

Griffin finished the half with 16 points, including his first three-pointer of the season as the shot clock wound down with just over seven minutes left.

Paul scored 14, Wade had 11 and James 10.

Problematic for the Clippers: Midway through the second quarter, only three Clippers had scored: Griffin, Paul and Mo Williams and Miami led, 39-28, while Miami had a much more balanced attack.

But with Caron Butler making a couple free throws and Chauncey Billups making a three, the Clippers cut the lead to 41-39 late in the half.

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 (4-3) 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 (8-2) would seriously alter those numbers ... and perception about this franchise on the move.

The Clippers peaked early, with Griffin scoring the team's first three baskets, the third on an alley-oop dunk from Paul that brought the capacity crowd to its feet. But no other Clipper scored until Paul with 5:59 left in the first period, and Miami led at the time, 12-9.

Griffin then cut the lead to one on a breakaway dunk on a pass from Billups. Another breakaway dunk by Griffin, this time from Paul, put the Clippers on top, 13-12, before James scored twice inside to give Miami a 16-13 lead.

James hit a sky-high dunk off a lob and made a couple of free throws before Paul made four of his own to close out the first quarter with Miami on top, 24-21. Griffin had 11 points and James 10 at the end of the first period.

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As going gets tough, Clippers can't get going in loss

-- Mike James

Photo: Clippers forward Blake Griffin dunks during the first half of Wednesday's game against Miami. Credit: Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press