Clippers welcome Griffin back with 114-109 win over Wizards
LOS ANGELES (AP) Blake Griffin showed brief flashes of his old Lob City self in his return from a three-month absence. His Clippers teammates, who kept winning without him, were just glad to have their leader back.
''Just like riding a bike except it was a little rusty,'' Griffin said, corralling his young son Ford, who was chewing gum like his dad.
Chris Paul had 27 points and 12 rebounds and Griffin scored six points to help Los Angeles beat the Washington Wizards 114-109 Sunday and clinch home-court advantage in the playoffs.
Griffin shot 2 of 7 and contributed five rebounds and two assists while playing 24 minutes after missing 45 games because of quadriceps and hand injuries. The team went 30-15 and clinched a playoff spot during his absence.
''It was a blast being back out there,'' Griffin said. ''My rhythm was pretty bad, conditioning was a little bit better than I thought it would be, but not great. I feel good now, but the key is the next few days.''
The Clippers gleefully pounced on Griffin during introductions, when DeAndre Jordan playfully pounded on him.
''He's been out for what feels like the entire year,'' Jordan said. ''Our energy was a lot higher than what it's been the last couple weeks. We got a lot of stops with him in the game. He was able to clog up a lot of the paint and just be who he is.''
Griffin hadn't played since Christmas Day, when he partially tore a left quadriceps tendon. He was averaging 23.2 points, 8.7 rebounds and 5.0 assists at the time. He broke his right shooting hand in January after punching the team's assistant equipment manager and recently served a four-game suspension for that.
''It's a comfort level for us defensively,'' Paul said about Griffin's presence. ''It's a confidence on the court that he brings to all of us.''
Marcin Gortat scored 21 points and Markieff Morris added 18 for the Wizards, who never led in losing for the fifth time in seven games. John Wall scored 15 points on 5 of 14 shooting and Bradley Beal had eight points after missing 14 of 16 shots.
''We just could not make shots when the game was close to get over that hump,'' Wall said. ''It's frustrating that some early fouls took me out of my rhythm and forced me to get less aggressive to avoid another foul.''
J.J. Redick added 18 points and Jordan had 12 points and 12 rebounds for the Clippers.
Down 12 points with 3:40 left in the fourth, Wall hit two 3-pointers and Otto Porter Jr. added another, whittling the Wizards' deficit to four points.
Jordan, who earlier missed four straight free throws, excited the crowd by catching a pass from Jamal Crawford and jamming it down in a one-handed motion that kept Los Angeles ahead 110-104. Wall hit another 3 that left Washington trailing by three.
Paul's 3-pointer from the top of the key beat the shot clock and extended the Clippers' lead to 113-107. Wall turned the ball over into the hands of Paul, who got fouled and made one of two to preserve the win.
Los Angeles led by 17 points in the first half. Griffin's first basket in more than three months was created on a fast break when Paul found him with an alley-oop pass. Griffin dunked two-handed alone under the basket 6 1/2 minutes into the game. Griffin had two assists before that, with the Clippers racing to an 18-6 lead at the start.
''It was the first time ever thinking, `Please don't throw it too high,''' Griffin said, smiling. ''Going up, I was a little worried, but it felt good in transition.''
The Wizards threatened with a 10-0 run to open the third that left them trailing 60-59. Gortat and Morris combined to score eight of Washington's points.
The Clippers responded with a 13-2 run, including eight in a row that restored their lead to 73-61. Jordan had four points and Redick hit a 3-pointer off Paul's bounce pass. Griffin made two free throws after Morris' foul sent him crashing into the courtside photographers.
Wizards: Wall extended his streak to 13 straight games with 10 or more assists, second longest in the NBA this season. ... They were swept in the two-game season series. ... The Wizards fell to 5-10 against the West.
Clippers: Coach Doc Rivers said Griffin will sit out at least one of the team's final six regular-season games. ... It was Ralph Lawler Day in honor of the team's 77-year-old play-by-play announcer. Fans received a commemorative coin with his face on it and the media and employee entrance to Staples Center was named in his honor. Lawler is in his 37th season with the team and has called more than 3,000 games.
Washington is desperately trying to grab the eighth and last playoff berth in the East. Indiana is currently in eighth place and Chicago is close behind with the Wizards in hot pursuit.
''The fat lady hasn't started singing yet,'' Beal said. ''Some crazy things have happened at the end of the season, so anything can happen. It's just all a matter of time.''
Wizards: Host Brooklyn on Wednesday.
Clippers: Host Lakers on Tuesday.