Blake Griffin returns, leads Los Angeles Clippers past Charlotte Hornets

By Kyle Kensing, The Sports Xchange  |  Dec. 31, 2017 at 10:37 PM
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LOS ANGELES -- Blake Griffin scored 27 points, grabbed seven rebounds and added six assists in his return from a sprained knee, Lou Williams scored 40 points, and the Los Angeles Clippers beat the Charlotte Hornets 106-98 Sunday at Staples Center.

Initial reports when Griffin went down Nov. 28 projected the forward to be sidelined for two months, but he looked sharp leading Los Angeles (16-19) in a pivotal third quarter.

Griffin came alive in a period the Clippers dominated 33-14, regaining control following a dismal second quarter.

The Hornets (13-23) held the Clippers to just 13 second-quarter points, at one point erupting for a 28-7 run that put Charlotte ahead by 14. That marked the Hornets' largest lead before Los Angeles began chipping away.

The Clippers led through the first quarter behind Williams, who recorded 16 points in the opening 12 minutes. Williams also dished out eight assists in the game.

Kemba Walker paced the Hornets, scoring both attacking the rim off the dribble and connecting on four 3-pointers. He scored 20 of his 30 points in the first half and knocked down a pair from behind the arc late in the fourth quarter as Charlotte tried to mount a comeback.

Forwards Frank Kaminsky and Johnny O'Bryant, as well as guard Jeremy Lamb all came off the Charlotte bench to chip in a combined 38 points, led by Kaminsky's 16. Center Dwight Howard finished with more turnovers (five) than points (four) and did not make a field goal until the middle of the third quarter.

Charlotte remained in striking distance throughout the fourth quarter but never cut the deficit below four points.

Though no Clippers beyond Griffin and Williams scored in double figures, center DeAndre Jordan contributed eight points and 16 rebounds. Guard Milos Teodosic also scored eight points, including a key 3-pointer in the late fourth quarter, and dished five assists.

The win came down to Griffin and Williams, however, right to the finish. They each responded to Walker's late 3-pointers, first with Williams putting in a tough, hanging layup to increase the lead to seven, then Griffin knocking down a pair of free throws to push the edge to six, effectively putting the game away.

NOTES: The Hornets shot 38.7 percent, finishing below 40 percent from the floor for the third time in four games. ... Clippers F C.J. Williams finished with a team-best plus-minus rating of plus-24. He scored four points, grabbed a rebound, passed an assist and forced two steals in 34 minutes. ... Clippers G Lou Williams shot 10 of 11 from the free-throw line to pace Los Angeles on a 24-of-27 afternoon. The Hornets were 15 of 19 on foul shots.

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