Paul plays big as Clippers roll past Wizards

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[December 29, 2015]  WASHINGTON - Point guard Chris Paul's brilliant floor game included two surprising dunks as the Los Angeles Clippers bombarded the Washington Wizards right from the start.

Paul scored 23 points and guard Jamal Crawford had 21 as the Los Angeles Clippers dominated the Washington Wizards in a 108-91 win Monday night.

The Clippers (19-13) never trailed and were never threatened in forward Paul Pierce's return to Washington. Los Angeles took an early 19-6 lead and pushed the advantage to 45-26 in the first half. They shot 52.6 percent from the field en route to a third straight win and second without injured forward Blake Griffin.

Converting one dunk after another certainly boosts shooting percentages. For the Clippers that usually means center DeAndre Jordan, who indeed had several rim-rattlers off lobs from Paul, who joined the slam club with his first two dunks of the season.

The 6-footer barely cleared the rim either time, but his teammates roared with approval.

"It surprised the life out of me to tell you truth," Paul said of his first dunk which came while cherry picking with guard J.J. Redick in the backcourt during the first quarter. "You could see the reaction of my bench. I think the funny part was that when I first caught the pass the point guard in me was about to drop it back to J.J. so he could score. But I was like ahhhh I feel kind of good tonight."

Paul dished plenty to teammates through the first three quarters. He also scored 17 points in the first half as the Clippers led 59-46 before the sellout crowd of 20,356.

The starters sat out the fourth as the bench extended the lead. Crawford scored 15 points in the second half and his jumper gave the Clippers their largest lead at 106-80. The reserves matched the starters with 54 points.

"Our bench was huge tonight," Pierce said. "They came in scored a lot of points, got stops, and they put the game away for us."

Guard John Wall had 23 points and 11 assists for the Wizards, who trailed by double figures after falling behind 27-16 in the first quarter. Washington entered with a season-high four-game winning streak, holding the last three opponents under 100 points.

Forward Otto Porter Jr. added 21 points for Washington.

"We didn't come out with enough energy in the first quarter," Porter said. "We tried to fight our way back the whole game and we just didn't have enough."

Paul's coach isn't sure his point guard had enough oomph on his first dunk for it qualify as one. The second version, which capped a brilliant drive through Washington's defense, certainly did.

"The first one, I don't know if you're gonna call that a dunk," Doc Rivers said, "but the second one was a dunk and that was good to see."

Paul said the only dunking opinion he cares about is from someone not close to rising above the rim yet.

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"It's whatever you want to call it. The person that I'm going to let be the judge is little Chris," Paul said of his young son. "I'm going to call him as soon as I get out of here to make sure he saw it."

Jordan had 15 points on 6-of-6 shooting and grabbed 13 rebounds.

Pierce, who signed a free-agent contract with the Clippers in July after one season with the Wizards, scored nine points in his first start since Nov. 22. The future Hall of Fame forward's campaign with Washington included a memorable run of clutch shots during two rounds of the playoffs.

Pierce's final shot with the Wizards, a potential game-tying 3-pointer at the buzzer in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Atlanta Hawks, came just after the buzzer sounded, eliminating Washington from the playoffs.

"I just spent my one year here but I feel like I really became a part of this city," Pierce said. "They really embraced me. ... DC is always forever going to be in my heart."

Both teams labored from beyond the 3-point arc, but the Clippers repeatedly moved the ball for open shots while the Wizards' offense never found rhythm. Washington shot 39.1 percent from the field.

"We could not get any pace going," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said.

Center Marcin Gortat had 12 points and 16 rebounds for the Wizards.

NOTES: Clippers G Wesley Johnson added 14 points off the bench for the Clippers. ... Wizards C Marcin Gortat was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week Monday after keying Washington's 3-0 week by averaging 21.3 points, 11.7 rebounds and 1.7 blocks. ... Wizards G John Wall has six straight double-doubles and 12 in 15 games during December. ... The Clippers visit the Charlotte Hornets Wednesday in their third straight game away from Los Angeles. ... Washington plays its final game of 2015 on Wednesday at the Toronto Raptors.

[ 2015 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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