Tom Haberstroh reveals which offense has been the NBA's best in the New Year.
Despite a monster performance from Blake Griffin, the Los Angeles Clippers dropped their first test of a challenging stretch and ended their home win streak at seven games.
The Clippers will try to get back on track Friday night when they host the Atlantic Division-leading Toronto Raptors in the second of a five-game homestand that features a handful of the NBA's elite.
Griffin scored a season-high 43 points and pulled down 16 rebounds Wednesday, but it wasn't enough in a 116-112 loss to Miami. The Heat, who lead the Southeast, were the first of several top teams that will visit during a homestand bridging the All-Star break.
The Clippers (34-18) also face Portland next Wednesday and then San Antonio after the break, though those teams may have to contend with point guard Chris Paul, who has been out with a separated shoulder since Jan. 3 but is likely to return Sunday against Philadelphia barring any setbacks in practice.
Los Angeles trailed by as many as 19 early on against the Heat before rallying to make it a one-possession game in the final minutes.
Los Angeles was also without guard J.J. Reddick, who sat out with a sore right hip, forcing Jamal Crawford into the starting lineup. Crawford played more than 46 minutes -- his highest total since 2009 -- and finished with 31 points. Griffin logged 43 minutes.
"The adrenaline is still going, so (Griffin and I) are alright. But I'm sure we'll feel it," Crawford said of the extended minutes. "We were down 19 in the first half and then down I think 17 with 16 minutes to go in the game. So, you can't do that against a team like that. We obviously turned the ball over too much. But, we'll take the good from it and continue to get better."
Los Angeles had 20 turnovers, resulting in 25 points for Miami, and following Monday's loss at Denver, has dropped back-to-back games for the first time since Paul went down.
The Clippers, sitting in first in the Pacific, are 3-6 against the NBA's other five division leaders. One of the three wins came Jan. 25 against the Raptors (26-23), who were torched for 37 points by Crawford in a 126-118 home loss.
Toronto forward Terrence Ross was outstanding in that one, tying a team record with 51 points on 16-of-29 shooting. Ross was 10 of 19 from 3-point range and added nine rebounds.
Since that loss to Los Angeles, the Raptors have won four of six. Five of those games have come on the road, including a 109-101 loss at Sacramento on Wednesday.
Kyle Lowry had 21 points, eight assists and seven rebounds for the Raptors, who lost the game primarily at the free throw line. They committed 35 fouls and the Kings were strong with a 41-of-51 performance at the stripe.
"(The Kings game) was one of the worst games we've played all year. We don't want to dwell on it, but we have to take from it and understand we can't play like that," said forward DeMar DeRozan. "We never could get a consistent run, consistent flow. They went to the line 51 times -- that's the game right there."
The Clippers have won four of their last five versus the Raptors, including the last three meetings at Staples Center.