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Los Angeles Clippers' Darren Collison is fouled by Miami Heat's Mario Chalmers at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014. (Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times/MCT)

Clippers' comeback falls short in loss to Heat

LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Clippers had plenty of guts and plenty of courage, but the team just couldn't get stops when it needed them.

The Miami Heat and LeBron James were too much, fighting off a comeback attempt on their way to a 116-112 victory at Staples Center.

Undermanned because of injuries to Chris Paul (right shoulder), J.J. Redick (right hip) and Hedo Turkoglu (knee), the Clippers starters logged heavy minutes, leaving them panting down the stretch.

Still, the Clippers roared back from a 17-point deficit in the second half thanks to big nights from Blake Griffin, Jamal Crawford and DeAndre Jordan.

Griffin scored a season-high 43 points, Crawford added 31 points in 46 minutes and Jordan hauled in 16 rebounds to go with 16 points. Griffin also grabbed 15 rebounds.

Crawford's pull-up jumper with 1:04 left in the game pulled the Clippers within two.

Needing a crucial stop, though, Ray Allen drilled a corner 3 to beat the shot clock.

Allen's 3, which was open in part because Crawford left him to help on a driving Dwyane Wade, was fitting on a night where the team continued to struggle on that end.

Many of the problems that haunted the Clippers over the past two weeks persisted Wednesday, when the Heat became the fifth team in the past seven games to top 100 points.

Miami opened the game making six-straight shots on their way to shooting nearly 70 percent in the first quarter. They surged again in the third quarter, turning a close game into a 17-point lead.

But the Clippers showed remarkable fight in the fourth quarter, though, getting within two points on multiple occasions.

Needing stops, though, James went to work, drilling a big 3 to beat the shot clock and slicing through the defense for a slick left-handed finish.

James led Miami with 31 points and 12 assists, finishing two rebounds shy of his first triple-double of the season.

PAUL GETTING CLOSE

Paul didn't play Wednesday against Miami, and he might not play against Toronto on Friday. But he's close to making a return from a shoulder injury that has kept him out 17 games.

Paul has not played since suffering a separated shoulder in the third quarter of a victory against Dallas on Jan. 3. He has participated in light shooting, but has not done any full-contact drills.

The Clippers also play Philadelphia on Sunday at Staples Center.

"He didn't really go through shootaround (Wednesday), but he went through some one-on-ones today and he looked pretty good," Rivers said. "So, I think he's very close. I don't want to give a day or anything. I don't think he'll play Friday but he could play after that, but I don't know that."

SIMILAR STYLES

Redick hasn't always been the Clippers' third scoring option like guard Ray Allen was under Rivers in Boston, but the guard has taken on that role in Paul's absence.

Redick is averaging 15.7 points and 2.2 assists in the 30 games he has played. He missed 21 games because of a broken right wrist he suffered Nov. 30, but has come back strong before having to sit out Wednesday because of sore hip.

Rivers said Redick reminds him of Allen, now a member of the Miami Heat.

"(They are) very similar. J.J. runs it at a faster pace because Ray has height so you could run it differently, but a lot of the stuff (is the same)," Rivers said. "That's an offense in itself when you have that guy running off of screens because the action could be on the opposite side, but everyone's going to follow Ray and everyone's going to follow J.J."

GRIFFIN GETS NOTICED

Don't think Griffin's improved all-around play this season has gone unnoticed. Even the NBA's best have taken note of the bump in his statistics.

This season, Griffin is showing that he can do more than dunk. He is shooting 28.6 percent from the 3-point line, up from last season's 17.6 percent. Griffin also has gotten better in overall field-goal shooting and rebounding.

"He continues to grow," James said. "The more games you play, the more comfortable you get with your game and the more confidence his teammates are giving him, the more he's producing."

Spoelstra said young players who are dedicated competitors usually make strides as they mature.

"He clearly is in a comfort level right now that he knows when the ball is coming," Spoelstra said. "He's improved as a shooter. He's an improved pick-and-roll player. He's always been a great transition player and still is."

(c)2014 The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.)

Visit The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.) at www.ocregister.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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