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Nash's absence was only one reason Paul had the same number of assists as the Lakers, with Nash replacement Steve Blake managing just two assists in 38 minutes before fouling out in the final minute.
The Clippers pulled away in the third quarter, making an 18-5 run with nine points from Griffin to take an 82-67 lead into the fourth quarter. The Lakers trimmed it to 91-83 with 5 minutes to play, but Crawford and Matt Barnes kept the Clippers ahead with big buckets.
"The key was that we weathered the storm," Paul said. "We had a lead going into the fourth, and then Kobe started being Kobe. I've played against the Lakers enough times to see him get like that and have them come back and win. But we got some timely shots from our bench, and they stepped up for us."
Bryant became the Lakers' career steals leader with his 1,725th in the third quarter, passing Magic Johnson. But the Lakers' defense was largely ineffective against Paul, and the Clippers forced 20 Lakers turnovers.
The Lakers haven't been very good, but they also have caught few breaks since training camp opened with Howard still recovering from offseason back surgery. Nash was hurt in the first half of the Lakers' loss at Portland on Wednesday night in a collision with rookie Damian Lillard.
Just three games into his three-year contract with Los Angeles, the two-time MVP had to sit out. Brown doesn't know whether Nash will play in Sunday's home game against Detroit.
NOTES: Bryant moved past Johnson into 15th place on the NBA's career steals list. Isiah Thomas is 14th with 1,861. ... Clippers C DeAndre Jordan threw down a stunning putback dunk in the third quarter, barely throwing down a rebound before falling onto his back. Jordan scored just four points. ... Barry Diller, Diane Von Furstenberg and directors Kevin Smith, James L. Brooks and Adam McKay attended the game.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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