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Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul is fouled by Philadelphia 76ers guard Michael Carter-Williams in the second quarter on Sunday, Feb. 9, 2014, at Staples Center in Los Angeles. (Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times/MCT)

Chris Paul is back; Clippers defeat 76ers by 45

LOS ANGELES -- The Clippers' offense was on fire before Sunday's game with the Philadelphia 76ers, averaging 115 points over the past three games.

So, what did Chris Paul bring when he returned to the lineup for the first time since early January?

He brought the gasoline.

Paul ignited the offense to a record night, helping them rout the Philadelphia 76ers, 123-78, at Staples Center.

"It felt great to play," Paul said. "You never know what it's going to be like until you get out there, compete and play. It just felt good to get out there and compete."

It was the largest margin of victory for the Clippers in franchise history.

"We ran into a buzzsaw," 76ers coach Brett Brown said.

Paul scored just seven points to go with eight assists after missing 18 games because of a separated right shoulder. But with the point guard on the court, the Clippers were an astounding 42 points better than Philadelphia in the 23 minutes he was on the floor.

"We've been playing extremely well," Paul said, "and I didn't want to break that rhythm."

Paul returned to the starting lineup and helped the Clippers open the game on a 13-0 run.

The Clippers stretched that lead to 23 before Paul checked out after six minutes.

"Our guys ran out of gas quick," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. "That pace was a little too fast, almost. But I loved it. When you play like that, a lot of good things happen."

Leading by 31 after the first quarter, the Clippers made things worse for Philadelphia when Paul checked back in during the second.

On back-to-back plays, Paul found Griffin for two alley-oop dunks. First, Paul threw the ball off the backboard to Griffin, who jammed it home. Seconds later, Paul connected with Griffin for another dunk.

"Woo, that was crazy," Clippers forward Matt Barnes said. "I didn't even run down on those. Once he has Blake or (DeAndre Jordan) on one side, there's just no point. Someone is going to get a monster dunk. Those were two incredible plays."

The Clippers went into the half up 69-30, the biggest halftime lead in franchise history, pushing it to 56 points in the second half.

After logging big minutes with Paul on the shelf, Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and Jamal Crawford all had light workloads Sunday, with only Jordan playing 30 minutes.

Griffin led everyone with 26 points, Jordan grabbed 20 rebounds and Crawford added 21.

Griffin joked at the suggestion that the Clippers were going to have to adjust to having Paul back on the court. "It was tough," he deadpanned. "But, we managed."

Paul even took a couple of bumps to his shoulder, including the first one, courtesy of Jordan.

"It spooked me a little bit," he said. "...But once I got through that one, I was OK."

The Clippers held Philadelphia to 27 percent shooting, another franchise record for the Clippers. The 76ers were 3 of 28 from 3.

Those numbers, not the 123 points the Clippers scored, made Paul the happiest.

"We're all making plays, but it's our defense," Paul said. "That's what is going to give us a chance every night, if we keep playing like this."

Notes

The Clippers' starters sat for the entire fourth quarter, allowing seldom-used reserves like Reggie Bullock and Antawn Jamison to get extended minutes. The big lead also gave the Clippers a chance to play Sasha Vujacic for more than nine minutes. Despite turning the ball over three times, the former Laker scored his first five points as a Clipper. ... Jamison's appearance was his first court time since Jan. 10 ... Griffin and the Clippers went through a scary moment in the first quarter when Tony Wroten's leg whipped into Griffin's lower leg. Griffin's left leg buckled some, and he rolled his ankle. He went back to the locker room, but he was able to return. ...Sunday was the sixth time this season Jordan grabbed 20 or more rebounds.

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

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Distributed by MCT Information Services

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