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The Portland Trailblazers' Damian Lillard loses the ball with the Los Angeles Clippers' Jamal Crawford, left, and Blake Griffin, rear, pressuring at Staples Center in Los Angeles on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014. (Michael Robinson Chavez/Los Angeles Times/MCT)

Griffin, Crawford and Paul lead Clippers past tough Trail Blazers

LOS ANGELES -- The Clippers had to finish some work before going out on break.

Hosting Portland in the final game before the All-Star break, the Clippers survived a high-scoring battle, outlasting the Trail Blazers, 122-117.

The lead flip flopped 40 times Wednesday at Staples Center before the Clippers made one late push.

Led by Blake Griffin, Jamal Crawford and Chris Paul, the Clippers went up by three with less than 30 seconds to play after DeAndre Jordan slammed home an open-court alley-oop.

Nicolas Batum, who made a huge 3-pointer in Portland's overtime win Dec. 26, couldn't repeat the feat.

The Clippers grabbed the rebound after Batum's miss, and Crawford iced the game on the foul line.

Facing off against LaMarcus Aldridge, Griffin stepped up his game, leading all scorers with 36 points. He also led the Clippers with 10 rebounds. Aldridge led Portland with 25 points.

"Blake's his own breed," Coach Doc Rivers said. "I don't know anyone like him. He just does so many things."

Paul, playing in his second game since returning from a separated shoulder, scored 20 points with 12 assists.

The Clippers had to fight back in the second half after a quick Portland spurt.

Portland grabbed momentum after a botched strategy kicked off a strange stretch late in the third quarter. Portland, leading by one, fouled Jordan, who sank both foul shots.

Rookie C.J. McCollum hit a 3 on the next possession and drew a foul by Jordan. McCollum missed the free throw, but the Blazers grabbed the offensive rebound. After getting into the paint, Portland found McCollum open, and he drilled another shot from beyond the line, capping a six-point swing.

The stretch erased a Clippers lead and turned into a five-point deficit. Still, thanks to eight fourth-quarter points from Griffin, the Clippers were able to get back ahead.

The win puts the Clippers, Portland and Houston in a virtual tie for the third-best record in the Western Conference.

After allowing Portland free reign over the court most of the game, the Clippers closed the game by getting eight straight stops.

"We waited to the end," Rivers said with a chuckle.

Major minutes

Of all the numbers Jordan has put up so far this season, the nearly 36 minutes a game might be the most important. With reserve big men Ryan Hollins, Antawn Jamison and Byron Mullens giving the team inconsistent production, minutes or both, Rivers has leaned on his 25-year-old center.

"You never feel he's tired, in a strange way. I think I've subbed DJ once or twice all year because I thought he was out of breath," Rivers said. "It never looks like he's tired."

Before Wednesday, Jordan had logged more than 40 minutes 16 times this season. Last season, Jordan didn't cross the 40-minute mark once.

Still, Rivers isn't worried about the minutes.

Still, the All-Star Game should help Jordan and Griffin.

"Blake, at times, is getting beat up physically on the floor, and he's running at the pace he's running," Rivers said. "I'd say he'd benefit the most from the break."

Rivers said, in general, he doesn't spend much time worrying about how much his frontcourt is playing.

"I think age is an issue more than minutes," he said. "But a rest is always nice, whenever it happens. You take advantage of it."

Green sidelined

Already playing without J.J. Redick, the Clippers shooting guard rotation got even thinner when Willie Green was scratched. An MRI on Tuesday revealed Green has a torn labrum in his hip.

"It sounds worse than what it is," Green said. "It's common, and it's just a small one."

The injury occurred Sunday in the win over Philadelphia.

Green is one of the team's toughest players, dealing with a torn meniscus in his knee all last season. This year, Green has played despite not being able to bend his left pinky finger.

The hip injury, though, is worse.

"It was pretty painful, but nothing a little rest won't help," he said. "That's where we're at. There's nothing else I can do."

(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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CLIPPERS, TRAIL BLAZERS


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