LOS ANGELES (AP) – Consistent and timely perimeter shooting by Blake Griffin and Jared Dudley, along with a season-high 36 assists, helped the Los Angeles Clippers to a satisfying start to 2014 following their most lopsided defeat of the season.
Griffin scored 13 of his 31 points in the final 7:05 and Dudley got 11 of his 20 points in the third quarter, leading the defending Pacific Division champions to a 112-85 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats on Wednesday night.
“Dud is a shooter. Every time I see him shoot it, I think it’s going in, so we’re going to keep feeding him like that,” Clippers point guard Chris Paul said. “It’s all about confidence. We also have the utmost confidence in Blake. He works so hard, and it was great to see it all come together for him tonight. That was unreal. They didn’t know what to do.”
Dudley faced his second former team in two games, making seven of 10 shots against the club that selected him with their first pick in 2007 and traded him to Phoenix after one season. He had nine points against the Suns on Monday in the Clippers’ 107-88 loss.
“For me, to see the ball go in once or twice, it breeds confidence,” said Dudley, who came in shooting a career-worst 44 percent from the field. “I’ve just got to be aggressive, and obviously make shots. I know when I play well, our team usually plays well. When you move the ball from side to side, it opens things up more. Sometimes when I do score, it just gives the other guys the confidence to do other things. But when I’m not shooting the ball well, I have to do all the little things.”
Paul had 17 points and 14 assists, helping the Clippers beat the Bobcats for the sixth straight time and send them to their 17th straight road loss against Western Conference opponents.
“We had 36 assists tonight, and you could see what we worked on yesterday at practice with ball movement,” coach Doc Rivers said. “It was quick. The ball was flying around the floor, and that makes us really good. It makes it harder to guard Chris and Blake because you can’t key on those guys. I think we got away from that a little bit, so it’s good that that came back tonight.”
Al Jefferson and Kemba Walker each scored 14 points for the Bobcats, whose previous six losses all were decided by five points or fewer.
“Those guys played really well,” Walker said. “They picked up their defense, made us take tough shots, and we weren’t able to make them. On the offensive end, they moved the ball really well, shared the ball and made shots. We just couldn’t get over the hump in the second half.”
Dudley jump-started the Clippers in the third quarter with a 3-pointer and a 22-footer, and they pulled away to a 75-62 lead on DeAndre Jordan’s tip-in with 6:19 left in the third quarter.
Dudley opened the fourth with another 3 to give Los Angeles an 84-69 cushion. But as hot as he was at the time, Dudley passed up a 3-point shot and drove the lane before dishing off to Ryan Hollins for a layup that resulted in a three-point play and an 87-71 advantage with 10:05 left.
Griffin, who began the final quarter on the bench after picking up his fourth foul with 5.2 seconds left in the third, reported back in with 7:56 remaining and made four perimeter jumpers during a 1:33 span _ the first two from 21 feet and the next two from 18 feet _ to give the Clippers a 97-78 cushion with 5:32 left.
“You never want to give anybody anything, especially a very good player like him. But that’s the toughest shot in the NBA _ the long 2,” Bobcats forward Josh McRoberts said. “Defensively, maybe we could have done a bit better job.”
For good measure, Griffin added his seventh 3-pointer of the season with 1:50 on the clock for a 102-83 lead. The Bobcats didn’t make a field goal after Jefferson’s 16-footer with 4:04 remaining. Charlotte shot 38.2 percent from the field, making the Clippers 40-1 since the start of last season when holding an opponent under 42 percent.
“It was all about our defense and energy, and moving the ball,” Paul said. “We had a great practice yesterday where we competed and just talked about moving the ball. We did tonight, and things came a little bit easier.”
Paul had 17 points and seven assists during a seesaw first half that included 18 lead changes, and both teams shot over 50 percent before leaving the court at intermission tied at 56. Neither club led by more than four points until Chris Douglas-Roberts converted an offensive rebound into a layup to give the Bobcats a 43-37 margin with 6:41 left in the second quarter.
The Bobcats came in having allowed the second-fewest points in the paint (35.8) and second-fewest fast-break points (9.9). The Clippers ended up with 38 and 15, respectively, after averaging 40.2 and 16.3 in both categories.
NOTES: The Clippers are 4-2 on New Year’s Day since the franchise relocated to Los Angeles in 1984-85, and 6-5 including the years in Buffalo and San Diego. … Charlotte’s Steve Clifford is one of nine rookie coaches in the NBA this season. The only ones with a winning record are Phoenix’s Jeff Hornacek and Atlanta’s Mike Budenholzer. … Griffin has committed 43 turnovers in his last 12 games, including a career-worst eight last Saturday against Utah. … Walker has scored in double figures in 22 straight games, the longest such streak of his career. … Charlotte came in having allowed an average of 93.8 points, third-lowest in the league. Last season the Bobcats had the second-most porous defense, giving up 102.7 per game. … The Bobcats have gotten double-digit scoring from both Walker and Jefferson in each of the last 20 games. The club record for a tandem is 28 games, by Jason Richardson and Gerald Wallace in 2007-08.
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