January 1, 2018 / 3:17 AM / a year ago

Williams, Griffin guide Clippers past Hornets

Williams, Griffin guide Clippers past Hornets

LOS ANGELES — Lou Williams’ 40 points in a 106-98 Clippers win on Sunday at Staples Center came in a variety of ways — none of which the Charlotte Hornets could solve.

“He was just a nightmare tonight,” Charlotte forward Frank Kaminsky said. “He started hitting [3-pointers] early, so we start getting up on his screen. He starts driving to the rim, and then he’s getting fouled.”

Williams and forward Blake Griffin — in his second game back from a sprained knee — were the only Clippers to score in double figures. That was all Los Angeles needed, however.

Initial reports when Griffin went down Nov. 28 projected the forward to be sidelined for two months, but after scoring 24 points in his return Friday against the Los Angeles Lakers, he looked sharp again.

Griffin finished with 25 points, seven rebounds and six assists — much of which came in the 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.

His key contribution may have come off the floor at halftime, however.

“He let the second unit have it at halftime,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “Williams came off the bench with Los Angeles’ second string, with Jawun Evans getting the start. “I stood out (of the locker room) and waited for him to be finished.”

Williams’ teammates received his message.

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.

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.

“The first time we came in, we had the energy we needed to come back,” said Charlotte wing Treveon Graham, who chipped in another nine points off the bench. “But the second half was up and down.”

“If we want to win the game, we have to play all 48 minutes,” he said.

The Hornets’ inconsistency was evident in the play of the starters. Walker was the only one to finish in double figures scoring. Center Dwight Howard recorded 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.

“We came out flat,” Kaminsky said of the third quarter. “They ramped up the defense, and we didn’t have an answer..It was tough to get back over that hump.”

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.

“The struggle in the first half was self-inflicted,” Williams said. “The second group didn’t come in ready to play, and I was a part of that. Once we cleaned it up at halftime, we were in position to win the game.”

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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