THE good news for the Los Angeles Clippers is that Blake Griffin is on track in his late January return after having knee surgery last month. The better news: They just keep winning without their star forward and have remained unbeaten in 2017.
The Clippers notched their fifth straight win as JJ Redick and Chris Paul took charge late to turn back the Orlando Magic, 105-96, at the Staples Center on Wednesday (Thursday, Manila time).
The Clippers bounced back from a cold third quarter with a 10-2 start in the final period to wrest control in what has been a back-and-forth battle the entire game. Orlando led 33-28 after the first 12 minutes of play, but Redick led a 9-2 run late in the second quarter to take a 56-51 edge at the break.
Orlando turned to their defense in the third, forcing the Clippers to make just 5-of-15 in the period as the Magic took a slim 75-73 advantage into the final frame.
Raymond Felton and Mo Speights sparked the fourth quarter run and even pushed the Clipper lead to seven, 92-85, midway through the period, before Orlando cut the gap to three in under a minute.
After going scoreless since dropping 17 in the first half, Redick then hit a triple with 3:15 remaining, putting the lead back to six, 98-92, as the Magic failed to score for over three minutes. Nikola Vucevic stopped the bleeding for Orlando with a putback but Redick had a quick counter, with a jumper to keep the six-point lead, 100-94, at the 1:19 mark.
Paul then sank a three to put the Clippers up nine, 103-94, with 49 seconds remaining. Two missed free throws by Redick after an Evan Fournier layup kept the door slightly open for Orlando, but Paul slammed it shut with his pair of freebies as the Magic failed to convert on offense.
Redick had 22 points while Paul added 18 markers to help the Clippers move to 27-14. Speights scored all 13 of his points in the fourth quarter, while DeAndre Jordan had a feast on the boards with 20 rebounds to go with his 10 markers and three blocks.
Aaron Gordon led all scorers with 28 points, while Vucevic added a double-double of 16 markers and 12 boards. Jodie Meeks fired 14 off the bench but the Magic lost their fourth in a row and fell to 16-24.
Griffin missed his 13th straight game after going through a routine arthroscopic procedure to remove loose bodies from his right knee on Dec. 20, but his coach Doc Rivers declared before the game that the Clippers star is on track to return by late January.