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James, Heat hold off Clippers 116-112
Question of the Day
LOS ANGELES (AP) - The Miami Heat played the final minutes the way championship teams are supposed to. The Los Angeles Clippers are still perfecting the art of closing out games against the elite teams.
LeBron James had 31 points, 12 assists and eight rebounds, Ray Allen hit a clinching 3-pointer in the final minute, and the Heat snapped a five-game road losing streak against the stubborn Clippers with a 116-112 victory on Wednesday night.
Allen had 15 points off the bench for the two-time defending NBA champions, who began a six-game road trip that will be interrupted four games in by the All-Star break. Dwyane Wade, one of seven Miami players scoring in double figures, had 14 points and eight assists in his 700th regular-season game.
Los Angeles, coming off Monday’s stinging 116-115 loss at Denver on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by ex-Clipper Randy Foye, got a season-high 43 points and 13 rebounds from Blake Griffin and 31 points from Jamal Crawford. DeAndre Jordan extended his franchise record of consecutive double-digit rebound performances to 29 games with 16 boards and 16 points.
The Pacific Division champions are 11-6 since Chris Paul went down with a separated right shoulder on Jan. 3 at Dallas.
With Darren Collison and Crawford replacing Paul and J.J. Redick (sore right hip) in the starting lineup, the Clippers‘ bench produced only two points - a 20-foot jumper by Jared Dudley with 3:17 left in the first quarter - until Willie Green hit a pair of free throws to pull Los Angeles within 91-84 with 9:51 to play.
Allen, who holds the NBA record for career 3-pointers, converted a four-point play after Green fouled him behind the arc. That extended Miami’s lead to 99-87 with 8:07 remaining. His second 3, a rainbow from the left corner, made it 112-107 with 42.4 seconds to go.
“That’s when the talent kicks in,” James said. “The play was broken down a little bit, but D-Wade made a heck of a play by getting into the paint, and Ray just kept moving into his favorite spot - one of those corners. D-Wade found him with a great pass, and Ray nailed it.”
Allen, in his 18th NBA season, played in his 1,271st regular-season game and overtook John Havlicek for 19th place all-time.
“He’s a pro and he takes care of himself. He’s in just phenomenal shape, and he can run forever,” said Clippers coach Doc Rivers, who had Allen for five seasons with the Celtics. “What impressed me the most when we were in Boston was his professionalism and his ability to make big shots. Ray could go 0 for 20, or 20 for 20, and the next day he’d be the first guy in the gym, shooting all of his shots from his exact spots at the exact speed. Ray lives that.”
The Clippers, who held Miami to just two field goals over the first 7:47 of the fourth quarter, narrowed the gap to 99-95 with a 10-0 run capped by Griffin’s tip-in with 5:15 left. But James responded with a 3-pointer and a layup 53 seconds apart.
“Obviously we’ve had our battles with Doc, being in the Eastern Conference for so long, so we know how well his team is going to be prepared,” James said. “I think it was just our mental toughness, especially in the third quarter when they made their run. We just stayed composed and found a way to get a win. We made stops and executed offensively.”
The Heat opened the third quarter with an 11-5 run that extended their seven-point halftime lead to 73-60. Wade set up an alley-oop dunk by James, and Mario Chalmers hit a 3-pointer from in front of the Clippers‘ bench to cap the rally with 8:48 left in the period. Chalmers’ basket put all of Miami’s starters in double-figure scoring.
Griffin led all scorers in the first half with 22 points and Crawford added 18, including a buzzer-beating 3-pointer at the end of the second quarter. But the Heat led 62-55 at intermission after shooting 57 percent.
Miami’s ball movement was superb from the outset, recording assists on all but one of its first 18 field goals and building a 43-24 lead with 9:44 left in the second quarter. The Heat had 33 assists on 41 field goals overall.
“We pride ourselves on moving the ball, and we know that makes it easier for all of us,” James said. “We keep everyone in a rhythm when we’re passing the ball and sharing the ball. Tonight we had some turnovers, including myself. I mean, I was the main culprit (with seven), and I’ve got to be more conscious of that and not turn the ball over so much.”
NOTES: James was called for a reach-in foul against Griffin with 3:17 left in the third quarter, his first of the game, and was assessed a technical foul by referee Bill Kennedy for complaining about it with Miami leading 81-69. … The Clippers began a five-game homestand that includes four opponents that entered Wednesday with a combined 126-62 record - Portland and division leaders Miami, Toronto and San Antonio. … Miami improved to 8-2 against teams that currently lead their division. The Clippers are 3-6 in that department.
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