In their toughest test yet of this young NBA season, the Los Angeles Clippers measured themselves against the Miami Heat and liked how they stacked up.
Blake Griffin and Chris Paul had double-doubles, with Paul keying a third-quarter spurt that helped carry the Clippers to a 107-100 victory on Wednesday night. They have wins over Memphis, the Lakers, San Antonio and now the defending NBA champions in their first eight games.
"These wins are good, but we're playing at home and we expect to win," Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said.
Griffin had 20 points and 14 rebounds and Paul had 16 points and 10 assists to lead five players in double figures in the Clippers' fourth straight win. Jamal Crawford added 22 points off the bench.
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"We can even be better," Griffin said. "We can't rest on a win like that."
Obviously Griffin has been listening to Paul, who cautions an even-keeled approach.
"It's early, very early," Paul said. "We don't want to get ahead of ourselves. Just keep playing the right way every night."
LeBron James scored 30 points for the defending NBA champions, who lost their fifth in a row against the Clippers in Los Angeles. Ray Allen added 14 points, including four 3-pointers, as the Heat dropped to 2-2 on their current six-game trip.
"Tonight was not a good game for us," Dwyane Wade said. "We have some good moments, but we have to put a full game together on the road. The important thing right now is to figure out how we can get better."
Wade was held to six points - well below his 18.4-point average - playing with a sprained left foot that kept him out of the morning shootaround.
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"I had some shots that I normally make that I wasn't able to hit, but I just tried to help as much as I could and do my job as a leader on the floor," he said. "We did a pretty good job until the end of the third before Chris Paul went off and kind of separated the game for us. They're playing with a lot more confidence, and obviously they've got more depth."
The Clippers were clinging to a 72-70 lead in the third when Paul switched from distributor to scorer, running off 13 straight points and extending their lead to 85-74 going into the fourth. The Clippers hit five 3-pointers in building the game's first double-digit lead after neither team led by more than six points in the first half.
"He makes things happen and that's why I've always felt that he's the best point guard in the game," James said.
Wade was called for a technical after tangling with Ryan Hollins and then he missed a jumper over Hollins on Miami's last shot of the third.
The Clippers' roll continued into the fourth, with Eric Bledsoe scoring their first eight points for a 93-76 lead. Griffin and Paul were on the bench, giving the second unit its chance to dominate the offense against Miami's starters. Bledsoe finished with 12 points and Caron Butler had 15.
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"That's the first time I've been able to sit on the bench and almost be a fan," Griffin said. "It's fun to watch."
Griffin and Paul returned after Miami cut its deficit to 104-93 with 3:47 remaining. But it was only for insurance as the Heat failed to make a serious run in the closing minutes.
"The road just gets tougher," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "That's a good team. We view them as legit competitors for the title."
Miami led 54-52 at halftime. James wasted no time asserting himself with a driving dunk 12 seconds into the game. The Clippers answered with eight straight points, the biggest run either team managed in the half.
Both teams put on a riveting display of dunks, 3-point shooting and power moves. The crowd cheered when Bledsoe blocked Wade on his way to the basket and then Norris Cole airballed a 3-pointer after the Heat recovered the ball.
"I turned it over so I just tried to get the ball back," Bledsoe said.