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Blake Griffin and Chris Paul discuss Clippers victory over Miami [Video]

In a game that took on an almost playoff-like intensity and physicality, the Clippers beat the Miami Heat in overtime, 95-89, at Staples Center on Wednesday.

Beating the Heat, the team many predict will win a championship this season, was a huge infusion of confidence for a team that's trying to establish its relevance in Los Angeles.

"The level was definitely raised a bit," said Blake Griffin, who finished with 20 points and 12 rebounds.

Chris Paul led the Clippers with 27 points on 11 for 21 shooting while Caron Butler added 20 points. They combined for 21 points in the third quarter, helping turn a 48-43 halftime deficit into a 70-69 fourth-quarter lead for the Clippers.

"He was unbelievable," Griffin said of Paul. "He is so tough to guard because you never know what he is going to do. He can hit that jumper or get to the rim, shoot a floater or pass it and that is why he is the best."

Amid the lobs and sharp shooting, there was one play that Paul orchestrated in the second half that will surely make the highlight reels.

Paul rolled the ball on the floor after an inbounds pass, beckoning the defense to run toward him. As soon as they took the bait, he snatched the ball and lobbed it to DeAndre Jordan for a powerful jam.

Jordan was also instrumental in the team's victory. He played solid defense and was a strong force in the middle, finishing with eight points, 11 rebounds and six blocked shots. There was one play with just over six minutes remaining in the fourth in which Jordan scored a layup then came down on the other end and rejected a shot.

"Six blocks doesn't tell the real story of how he played," said Paul. "He gained possessions for us."

The game was sent into overtime after a few Heat errors down the stretch, including LeBron James fouling Chauncey Billups from the three-point line with 27 seconds remaining and the Clippers trailing 84-83. Billups made each of his free throws.

In overtime, the Clippers held Miami to only three points, sealing the impressive victory for the Clippers.

Despite the temptation, Paul resisted rubbing the win in the face of his good friend James. When asked by a reporter what he's going to say to his superstar buddy, he said, "Good game."

--Melissa Rohlin

Miami Heat leads Clippers at halftime, 48-43

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. 

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Clippers' tough week: At Trail Blazers, home vs. Heat, Lakers

Chauncey Billups of the Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers face an early-season test this week with a game against the Trail Blazers in Portland on Tuesday followed by home games against the Miami Heat on Wednesday and the Lakers on Saturday.

On New Year's Day, the Clippers defeated Portland at Staples Center, 93-88, but only after L.A. nearly let the game get away.

"I’m sure they’ll be looking forward to getting us on their court," Clippers guard Chauncey Billups said of the Trail Blazers, "and they're a really, really good home team, so it will be a big challenge for us."

The Clippers are coming off a 92-86 win over the Milwaukee Bucks at Staples Center on Saturday, but they struggled in that game too, and Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro said, "We’re going to have to play better than we did last game, that’s for sure.

"Luckily, we just played Portland last week so we’ve got a good feel for them, but we’ve got to do a lot better in a lot of areas," Del Negro said after the team practiced Monday at its Playa Vista training facility.

That includes rebounding, where the Clippers have been weak so far this season. "When the ball goes up we’ve got to get a body on somebody," Del Negro said. "Everyone has to do a better job."

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Photo: Clippers guard Chauncey Billups drives the lane against the Houston Rockets at Staples Center last Wednesday. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times

Blake Griffin to be considered candidate for USA Olympic team

Blake-griffin_600

Blake Griffin’s name has been mentioned as one of the candidates who will be considered to try out for the USA Basketball team that will play in the 2012 Olympics in London.

The Clippers star said after practice Saturday that he hasn’t heard from anyone yet, but that if he gets the call that he gladly will participate in the tryouts.

Jerry Colangelo, the director of USA Basketball, has been talking to several NBA players about playing in the Olympics. Colangelo has to announce his 18-man roster that will be considered candidates for the team by Jan. 18.

Griffin wasn’t on the 2008 Olympic team or the 2010 world championship team, but the 6-foot-10 star has become one of the NBA’s top players in a short time.

“It’s great to be considered to play for your country in the Olympics,” Griffin said. “But that’s a long ways away. If it happens, I’ll be grateful and I would be proud to try and represent our country. But right now I’ve got a season to worry about.”

Griffin is averaging 25.2 points and 9.6 rebounds after five games for the Clippers this season.

He averaged 22.5 points and 12.1 rebounds last season, a season in which he was named the NBA’s rookie of the year and won the slam dunk contest during All-Star weekend in Los Angeles.

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 -- Broderick Turner

Photo: Clippers power forward Blake Griffin elevates for a basket over Bulls guard Kyle Krover and forward Taj Gibson during a game last week at Staples Center. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

Clippers: Blake Griffin praises DeAndre Jordan’s defense [Video]

Offensively, the Clippers seem to be set. Just ask the battered rim that was constantly slammed by Blake Griffin's palm en route to his 30 points in the Clippers 108-103 exhibition victory over the Lakers on Wednesday.

"My teammates just kept saying to me shoot the ball when you're open, don't hesitate," said Griffin, who scored nine points in a row in the fourth quarter, including a one-handed jam preceded by a pump fake that sent Troy Murphy into the air.

Electric dunks are quite entertaining but the key to the team's success this season will be defense.

"I thought as a team we did a poor job in the first half defensively," Griffin said. "We scored points ... it was defensively where we hurt ourselves, you know, they scored 56 and we can't allow that.

The Lakers led 56-53 at halftime, then in third quarter the Clippers started making stops and held the Lakers to 17 points while scoring 30.

"In the third quarter, when we locked in defensively, you saw what happened," Griffin said.

Clippers center DeAndre Jordan was a big part of their late defensive push. He had three blocked shots, some so powerful that the ball flew out of bounds when he made contact from inside of the key.

"I strongly believe DeAndre [Jordan] could be in the running for defensive player of the year," Griffin said. "He's our anchor defensively. We rely on him a lot."

Jordan's reaction to that praise: "Aw, did he say that?"

If Lob City has its swat team in full force for the opening against Golden State on Sunday, it could be a Merry Christmas indeed for Clippers fans.

-- Melissa Rohlin

Clippers' Blake Griffin: Playing with Paul, Billups 'unbelievable'

After a 114-95 victory over the Lakers, Blake Griffin sat in the Clippers locker room with his legs in a bucket of ice and said, "Going into every game, you hope for a game like that."

The Lakers and Clippers play in the same gym and practice about five miles away from one another, yet there has never been a rivalry. The Lakers have won 16 NBA championships while the Clippers have won 16 fewer than that.

Even though the nearly 20-point win was in a meaningless preseason game, it shows Griffin that the Clippers have great potential this season.

PHOTOS: Clippers-Lakers

"We're definitely capable," he said.

Griffin had 12 points and five rebounds, including one monster dunk that led to a technical foul seemingly because it was too powerful but technically because he lingered in space for a bit too long. 

"I'm going to try and get one every game," Griffin said jokingly of technicals.

Although Griffin acknowledged that his team had much to improve upon, he said he was feeling really positive about how the Clippers were gelling and what it will be like to share a uniform with recently acquired four-time all-star point guard Chris Paul and five-time all-star guard Chauncey Billups.

Having them on the court has already taken a lot of pressure off of him. Billups scored a game-high 23 points while Paul had 17 points, nine assists and seven rebounds.

"Just the way they command attention on the floor," Griffin said. "You can't leave them alone.

"You saw Chauncey hit big shots, and Chris, the way he handles the ball and passes, it's just unbelievable."

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--Melissa Rohlin

Chauncey Billups silent, but Blake Griffin likes Clippers' moves

Billups3Even Clippers All-Star forward Blake Griffin has seen how things have changed in Clipperland.

Griffin already has noticed that “the target has shifted a little bit” because of what the Clippers have done in recent days.

They acquired Chauncey Billups on Monday by winning the waiver auction bid when the New York Knicks used the new “amnesty” provision to release him.

PHOTOS: Clippers land All-Star Chris Paul

Billups was at the practice facility in Playa Vista, but he didn’t practice and he didn’t speak with the media Thursday. The Clippers are hoping to have a news conference with Billups on Friday when the team is scheduled to have an off day.

The Clippers re-signed restricted free-agent center DeAndre Jordan on Monday by matching the four-year, $43.2-million offer sheet he got from the Golden State Warriors.

Then the Clippers went out and made a mega-trade Wednesday night in which they acquired Chris Paul from the New Orleans Hornets for Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman, Al-Farouq Aminu and the unprotected first-round draft pick they got from the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2005.

Paul was in town, but he didn’t practice Thursday. He was scheduled to have his news conference later that night.

All of these things have Griffin feeling good about the future of the Clippers.

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Clippers: Blake Griffin swishes a half-court shot while seated

Clippers forward Blake Griffin can slam the ball through the hoop in just about any way possible, but who knew that his outside shooting skills were just as spectacular?

At Clippers practice Tuesday, Griffin showed off his insane arm strength by swishing a half-court shot while seated. Good luck to whoever tries to outmuscle him in the post.

Griffin won the slam dunk contest as a rookie by jamming the ball after jumping over a car. This year, maybe he'll attempt a dunk from his hands and knees.

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-- Melissa Rohlin

Blake Griffin is concentrating on defense and being a leader [Video]

In his debut last season, Blake Griffin averaged a double-double with 22.5 points and 12.1 rebounds a game. He won the rookie-of-the-year award, put on a highlight reel of slam dunks and re-energized a flailing franchise.

At Clippers media day Tuesday, Griffin discussed his expectations for the upcoming season, both personally and for his team. Here are some highlights from the interview.

On what Chauncey Billups brings to the Clippers: "Obviously, you know, right out of the gate, experience. He's been on championship teams and made championship runs, hitting big shots and all of that. Besides all that, I think he brings maturity and leadership."

On what he thought when he heard the Clippers could get Chris Paul: "Obviously excited. We'd love to have him. But you know, if it doesn't work out, then everybody on this team knows we're ready to roll with this team."

On how happy he was to see that the Clippers kept DeAndre Jordan: "Very happy. This is actually the first I've seen him since we started camp. It's good to see him back. He's a huge part of this team, not only defensively, but offensively, finishing. He's one of the best finishers in the game above the rim.

On his friendship with Jordan: We had a fall-out this summer. Yeah, we're close, obviously as close as we've always been and, you know, obviously I've been talking to him throughout this whole process and for me, it was more of a friendship thing. I wanted to see him get what he deserves and I think he thinks he did too."

On the first few days of training camp: "They've been really, really good. This year compared to last year, it's been a huge difference. You know, everyone was trying to get used to the new coaching staff last year and now I think most of our guys know what to expect and it makes the transition a lot easier."

On whether he has a different approach this year: Absolutely, 100%. You know, I've told a lot of people, even after the first practice, it's like night and day. A year makes a huge difference. Last year in training camp, I was trying to prove that I belonged and that I was really a part of this team. This year, for me, it's much more relaxed and I can really work on the things that I need to work on."

On what he can improve on: Everything, obviously. But something I'm really concentrating, especially during training camp, is defense."

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--Melissa Rohlin

 

Mo Williams: Clippers can win NBA championship [Video]

As of Tuesday, the Las Vegas Hilton and MGM Resorts gave the Clippers 50-1 odds of winning the NBA championship this season.

According to Clippers guard Mo Williams, that sounds pretty good.

"We got a chance," he said with a smile. "It wasn't zero to 50. It wasn't zero out of a million."

At the Clippers' training facility in Playa Vista on Tuesday, Williams was very optimistic about his team's chances to be competitive this season.

"Me and Blake [Griffin] have been together this summer," Williams said. "The work we put in, there's no way we can't succeed."

Williams is a sharp-shooting guard who averaged 15.2 points and 5.6 assists with the Clippers last season. Griffin is a 6-foot-10 power forward who won rookie-of-the-year honors in 2010-11 after averaging 22.5 points and 12.1 rebounds a game.

While working out together during the NBA lockout, Williams said, they had one goal -- to become more similar.

"We made a pact right before the end of the season," Williams said. "I said, 'I'll teach you how to shoot better if you teach me how to jump higher.' "

Continue reading »

Blake Griffin shows up at Clippers facility, doesn't speak to media

Blake-griffin_600

On the first day players were able to visit their team’s practice facility to work out, now that the NBA lockout is over, three players showed up at the Clippers’ site Thursday in Playa Vista.

Clippers All-Star Blake Griffin was one of those players. But after his workout, Griffin disappointed a group of media members looking to interview him by sneaking out a back door without talking.

Griffin, like Brian Cook and Al-Farouq Aminu, who also showed up to workout, didn’t have to speak with the media because it wasn’t mandatory.

It was just that many in the media figured Griffin, who has become the face of the franchise, would be willing to talk about the upcoming season and how he felt about the expected ratification of the collective bargaining agreement.

Cook, a seven-year veteran, said he took his physical Thursday and was excited about playing again.

“I think guys wanted to play,” Cook said in a phone interview. “Taking away the game of basketball from the fans is never good. But as a businessman, I don’t feel we got too good of a deal. But it’s a deal to get us going and to play for the fans.”

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 -- Broderick Turner

Photo: Clippers forward Blake Griffin arrives at the team's training facility in Playa Vista on Thursday. Credit: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

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