(AP) Clippers beat Lakers 109-95 to win division title
By BETH HARRIS
AP Sports Writer
Blake Griffin had 24 points and 12 rebounds, and the playoff-bound Los Angeles Clippers beat the Lakers 109-95 on Sunday to clinch their first Pacific Division title in franchise history against a team that has long overshadowed them.
Chris Paul added 24 points and 12 assists in helping the Clippers sweep the Lakers 4-0 for the first time since Donald Sterling bought the team in 1981. The 1974-75 team, known as the Buffalo Braves, had the franchise’s only other sweep of the Lakers.
Fans chanted, “Sweep! Sweep!” in the closing seconds.
Jamal Crawford had 20 points off the bench, DeAndre Jordan had 13 rebounds and Caron Butler scored 14 points.
Dwight Howard scored 25 points, including 9 of 13 free throws, for the Lakers, who played without injured starters Steve Nash and Metta World Peace. Kobe Bryant added 25 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds, and Pau Gasol had 12 points and 13 rebounds as the Lakers’ three-game winning streak ended.
As the division winner, the Clippers are guaranteed a top-four seed but will only open the playoffs with home-court advantage if they finish the season with a better record than the team in fifth, which currently is Memphis.
Playing as the home team, the Clippers dealt their Staples Center co-tenant’s playoff hopes a serious blow.
The Lakers fell into a tie with Utah for the eighth and final playoff berth in the West. The Jazz played later at Golden State, and a victory would move them a half-game ahead of the Lakers, who have five regular-season games left. The Jazz own the tiebreaker with the Lakers.
The Lakers led by seven points to start the game before the Clippers took the lead for good.
The game featured three of the NBA’s top-five dunkers in Griffin, Howard and Jordan. They all got some alley-oops in, along with Griffin, although the Clippers’ usual Lob City show didn’t emerge in force until the fourth.
That’s when Paul fed Griffin on a fast break late in the game and Griffin raced in for a one-handed jam. Paul stole the ball from Howard and sped up court before flipping it to Jordan for a monster slam. Griffin got the fans on their feet with under 2 minutes to go on a put-back slam that he followed with a 3-pointer to beat the shot clock.
The Lakers closed within single digits once in the fourth on a three-point play by Earl Clark. Bryant had 12 points in the fourth, including six free throws.
The Clippers stretched a seven-point halftime lead to 14 points in the third on a 3-pointer by Butler after leading 56-49 at halftime.
NOTES: The Clippers need one more win for the most at home in franchise history. They also had 30 in 1974-75. … The Clippers have won the season series against the Lakers twice in franchise history, including this season. … Clippers G Chauncey Billups missed his fifth straight game with a strained right groin. … Nash missed his third in a row with a strained right hamstring. … World Peace is ahead of schedule in recovering from left knee surgery and could return sooner than the six weeks he was expected to be out. … Rihanna, Billy Crystal and Regina King attended the game.