LOS ANGELES – Chris Paul drained a three-pointer as the shot clock expired with 26 seconds remaining in the game, and the Los Angeles Clippers held off the pesky Washington Wizards 114-109 at Staples Center on Sunday.
"The play we ran didn't necessarily work," Paul said of his clutch shot. "We had three seconds on the shot clock, so it was just, 'let me get the ball, see if I can put it in.' Luckily it went in."
The game marked the return of star forward Blake Griffin who has not played for the Clippers since Christmas Day as he's missed the team's last 45 games with a broken hand and a torn quadriceps.
"I'm just happy to be back," Griffin said of his return. "I was a little rusty. We have some more games to work on my rhythm which should help, I was just happy to be back on the court with my guys."
Clippers head coach, Doc Rivers, stuck to his word to "ease" Griffin back into basketball shape as Griffin played just 25 minutes, scoring 6 points.
"I thought he looked good," Rivers said of Griffin. "He looked like his conditioning was okay, his athleticism was good, but his timing was off."
Paul led the Clippers with a game-high 37 points and 12 assists. J.J Redick added 18 and DeAndre Jordan had 12 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks.
Once again the Clippers bench shined as they scored 43 points, led by Jamal Crawford and Austin Rivers (otherwise known as Smith & Wesson), as they combined for 29 points.
The Wizards trailed by as many as 17 points during the game, and by 11 at halftime, but they managed to stick around and were down by just three points before Paul's three-pointer sealed the deal.
"We knew it was going to be tough to come in here and get a win," said Wizards guard John Wall. "After the first quarter, it was pretty much an even game. We just could not make shots when the game was close to get over that hump."
Marcin Gortat led Washington with 21 points, John Wall had 15 points and 13 assists and Markieff Morris chipped in 18.
Players of the Game:
Chris Paul: 27 points and 12 assists.
DeAndre Jordan: 12 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks.
Marcin Gortat: 21 points.
John Wall: 15 points and 13 assists.
1. The Griffin Rises: The Clippers forward was a game-high +22 when he was on the floor in his first game back since Christmas Day. Griffin played just 25 minutes, but his impact and energy was present throughout the game.
2. The Executioner: Earlier in the season, the Clippers late-game execution was poor, and it cost them dearly against some of the top teams in the league. Over the past month however, the team has been terrific in the waning minutes of games. That was none more evident on Sunday when the Wizards wiped away a 12-point deficit and trailed by just three points with 47 seconds left. Chris Paul drained a three, stole the ball, nailed some free throws and threw a lob to DeAndre Jordan to finish off Washington.
Chris Paul ball-faked John Wall out of the gym before hitting a huge 3. Clippers back up 6. — Dan Woike (@DanWoikeSports) April 3, 2016
3. There's No Place Like Home: With their 114-109 victory over Washington, the Clippers clinched home-court advantage for the first round of the NBA Playoffs. Los Angeles is locked in as the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference and will host either the Memphis Grizzlies or Portland Trailblazers.
Clippers have clinched home court advantage in 1st round of playoffs — Clips Nation (@ClipsNationSBN) April 3, 2016
The Washington Wizards conclude their five-game road trip on Sunday and return home to Washington D.C. where they will host the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday, April 6th at 7:00 PM PST.
The Los Angeles Clippers will host the Lakers in the finale of the "Hallway Series" on Tuesday, April 5, at 7:30 PM PST.