Clippers down Hawks with late flourish

Sun Nov 11, 2012 6:32pm EST
 

By Mark Lamport-Stokes

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - With their reserve players sparking play in the final quarter, the Los Angeles Clippers pulled away from the pesky Atlanta Hawks to end a tightly contested game with a flourish and an 89-76 win on Sunday.

Back-up guard Eric Bledsoe contributed 12 points, Jamal Crawford 11 and Matt Barnes 10 as the Clippers outscored the Hawks 24-16 in the fourth period to claim their third consecutive victory.

Twice All-Star Blake Griffin scored a game-high 16 points and Chris Paul weighed in with 15 points and eight assists for Los Angeles but they were indebted to their bench players after shooting only 45.7 percent from the field in the first half.

Forward Josh Smith led Atlanta with 13 points and both Al Horford and Lou Williams added 11 as the Hawks slipped to 2-3 for the season. The Clippers improved to 5-2.

Playing in front of a sellout crowd of 19,060, the Clippers made an erratic start with a rash of turnovers and poor shooting from the field to trail 19-18 after the first quarter.

There were seven lead changes in the second period but a late scoring burst by point guard Paul, who followed a two-point jump shot with a driving layup, helped Los Angeles edge ahead 39-37 at halftime.

Guard Kyle Korver's three-pointer gave the Hawks their biggest lead of the night at 50-45 but the Clippers finished the third quarter with an unanswered six-point run to go 65-60 up.

The energized Clippers tightened their grip at both ends of the court, and a Bledsoe three-pointer padded their lead to 79-65 with 6.29 minutes left, and there was no way back for Atlanta.

(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Gene Cherry)