LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Chris Paul and the Los Angeles Clippers embraced their biggest test of the season in triumphant style on Wednesday, exploding in the second half to stun the NBA champion Miami Heat 107-100.
Trailing 54-52 at the game’s midway point, the home team rocked LeBron James and his ‘Big Three’ team mates Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, building a 20-point lead before fending off a late Miami rally to complete their fourth straight win.
Point guard Paul marshaled the Clippers superbly with 16 points and 10 assists in front of a sellout crowd of 19,000 at the Staples Center while twice All-Star forward Blake Griffin added 20 points and Jamal Crawford 22 off the bench.
James was a tower of strength for the Heat with a game-high 30 points and seven assists while veteran guard Ray Allen contributed 14 points and Bosh 11 but the visitors paid a price after being restricted to 45.5 percent shooting from the field.
In a high-octane start, James and Griffin treated the crowd to a sizzling display of driving layups, dunks and jump shots before a late burst of scoring by Crawford put the Clippers ahead 25-24 after a tightly contested first quarter.
There were seven lead changes in the second period but a trio of three-pointers by backup forward Rashard Lewis helped the Heat take a narrow 54-52 advantage into half-time.
Roared on by the home crowd, the Clippers upped the tempo and forward Caron Butler sank a three-pointer midway through the third quarter to give his team a welcome 67-60 lead.
Though the Heat briefly closed the gap to one, five-time All-Star Paul lifted Los Angeles spirits with back-to-back three-pointers to put them ahead 80-72 as loud chants of ‘CP3, CP3’ echoed around the Staples Center.
Leading 85-74 going into the fourth quarter, the Clippers padded that advantage to 93-76 after Bledsoe followed a pair of layups with two free throws.
A Crawford jump shot gave Los Angeles their biggest lead of the night at 104-84 and Miami were unable to close the gap, despite a furious late rally.
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Alastair Himmer