LOS ANGELES (AP) — Blake Griffin shot 2 of 11 in the first half, when the Clippers were in a struggle with the Dallas Mavericks.
In the locker room, his teammates urged him to keep shooting and while Griffin appreciated the encouragement, he knew he had to do more than settle for jumpers.
Griffin sparked the Clippers in a dominant third quarter, and they went on to win 98-91 on Sunday, snapping the Mavs’ six-game winning streak and preventing them from clinching a playoff berth.
“I tried to put a little more aggression into defense and try to let that get me going,” said Griffin, who had 17 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists in his best game since returning a week ago from a three-month absence.
“The third quarter was a bit of a killer,” Nowitzki said. “We were missing good looks.”
The loss kept the Mavs (41-39) in seventh place in the Western Conference, a game behind Memphis with two games to play. Dallas needs either a victory or a Houston loss to clinch a playoff berth for the 15th time in 16 years. The Rockets beat the Lakers 130-110 on Sunday.
The Mavs rallied to close within five in the final 3:45 but Griffin asserted himself down the stretch, scoring and assisting on an alley-oop dunk by DeAndre Jordan, and the Clippers eventually restored their lead to 10.
“Blake just got into the defense,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “He just turned into this guy who started playing with amazing force and intensity. He started rolling (to the basket) and putting pressure on their defense.”
The teams played nearly even in the first half, with the Clippers leading 49-47 at the break. Los Angeles got its first double-digit lead of the game in the third, when Dallas shot 3 of 18 from the floor.
Leading by three, the Clippers closed on a 20-6 run to lead 76-59 going into the fourth. Griffin scored six points and grabbed the offensive rebound after Jordan missed a free throw, feeding Redick for a 3-pointer in the spurt.
“Just his presence was big for us,” Chris Paul said about Griffin. “Down the stretch, that was the Blake that we know. He was aggressive.”
The Mavs tried to slow down the Clippers by fouling Jordan, but it didn’t work entirely. He finished 6 of 23 from the line, but made two foul shots that contributed to his team’s dominance in the third quarter.
Dallas got to 83-74 in the fourth, forcing the Clippers to bring Redick and Paul back in. Williams promptly banked in a jumper to cut the Mavs’ deficit to seven. They closed to 85-79 on a 3-pointer by Charlie Villanueva.
Paul finished with five points, seven rebounds and 11 assists.
Mavericks: Their six-game winning streak tied for the team’s longest this season. … No team had scored over 93 points during their streak. … G J.J. Barea sat out with a right groin strain. … Nowitzki averaged 23.0 points and 8.0 rebounds in his first three games against the Clippers this season.
Clippers: F Paul Pierce sat out to rest. … The Clippers won the season series 3-1 for the fifth year in a row. … They’ve won 11 of their last 15 regular-season games against the Mavs.
Williams returned to the Mavs’ starting lineup after missing a couple weeks because of a left abdominal strain. He shot 6 of 11, had four rebounds and three assists to go with four fouls in 28 minutes.
“He was aggressive, especially in the first half,” Nowitzki said. “I liked how he pushed it on the break and tried to get into the lane and collapse the defense. When a guy comes back from injury you look how he moves, and I thought he looked great.”
CRITIQUING HIS FORM
Jordan got another taste of getting hacked by an opponent, a familiar tactic sure to be employed against him in the playoffs.
“It was more of a rest period for me and the rest of the guys,” he joked about his 23 trips to the line. “They looked great, except for a couple that were line drives. My teammates have confidence in me when I am up there, and that is all that matters. I’m going to be continue to be confident and shoot the basketball. It will happen in the playoffs.”