Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 1/20/13
LOS ANGELES -- The "MVP! MVP!" chants cascading from the crowd at Staples Center toward Chris Paul sounded extra loud on Sunday night. Perhaps because Paul returned from a three-game absence, and Los Angeles Clippers fans just missed their star point guard. Perhaps because Paul played like one, yet again. The Clippers survived a poor shooting night to defeat the visiting Washington Wizards 94-87 as Paul took over in the game's final two minutes. Paul drained an 18-foot jumper with 33 seconds left after a crossover and stutter-step dribble on John Wall, then hit two free throws with 8.9 seconds left as Los Angeles kept Washington at arm's length. "I was just trying to get by him," Paul said of the clutch shot. "I saw him cut it off. I fought him back and luckily he stumbled a little bit and I hit the shot." Los Angeles broke the game open late in the second quarter, leading by as much as 12, but Washington fought back to one with less than two minutes left before the Clippers closed out the win. The Clippers won their fourth straight game despite hitting just 34 of 93 shots (37 percent) from the field -- the team's worst shooting in a win this season -- and 21 of 31 from the free-throw line. A big rebounding advantage -- 58 to 43 -- helped Los Angeles fend off a feisty Wizards squad that had won four of five games entering the contest. Aided by the extra possessions on the glass, including 22 offensive rebounds, and from 17 Washington turnovers, the Clippers managed 16 more shot attempts than the Wizards. "We knew last night when we played Denver that they were a great offensive rebounding team; we outrebounded them and won the game," Wall said. "Tonight, they outrebounded us by a lot -- I know Matt Barnes and Caron had about seven themselves in the first half -- and that hurt us." Added Paul: "The biggest thing I look at is that we had 93 shot attempts and they had 77," Paul said. "That's how we won the game, with offensive rebounding." Not that the Clippers did much with the extra attempts. Returning from a three-game absence because of a knee injury, Paul hit just 6 of 16 shots but went 8-for-9 from the free-throw line and led the team with 22 points and 11 assists. Blake Griffin added 17 points and 11 rebounds but made just 5 of 18 shots. Eric Bledsoe, who performed admirably in the starting lineup in Paul's absence, added 11 points off the bench. "Blake and Jamal (Crawford) did not make a lot of shots," Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said. "I thought (Griffin) was very aggressive; he missed a few shots that he usually makes, but that's part of the game. Little things in games like this are key." Wall had 24 points off the bench to lead the Wizards, who also struggled from the field, shooting just 32 of 77 (42 percent). Bradley Beal had 13 points for Washington and Nene Hilario added 12 points and seven rebounds. NOTES: Chris Paul was considered a game-time decision with his knee injury but played for the first time since the Clippers' 104-101 loss to Orlando on Jan. 12. His three-game absence marked the first games he's missed since April 26, 2012, when he sat out a 99-93 loss to the Knicks with a strained groin. He missed six games total last year, his first with the Clippers. ... Chauncey Billups (left foot peroneal tendinitis) and Trey Thompkins (left knee bone bruise) were out for Los Angeles. ... Cartier Martin (hyperextended left knee) missed the game for the Wizards. ... Bradley Beal came into the game on fire, hitting 53 percent from the field and 68 percent from 3-point range while averaging 20.8 points over his previous five games. Beal won Eastern Conference rookie of the month honors in December after averaging 13.4 points per game. ... The Clippers won the season series between the two teams last year, 2-0, taking both games just 11 days apart in early-mid February.
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