LOS ANGELES, (Reuters) – Chris Paul poured salt into the wounds of the ailing Denver Nuggets with 36 points and nine assists to carry the Los Angeles Clippers to a much-needed 103-95 home win on Wednesday.
With the Clippers looking to avoid a third straight defeat, Paul took the game by the scruff of the neck with 17 straight Clippers’ points spanning the final two quarters of a tight contest.
“I got to the gym early today, I tried to get into a rhythm,” Paul told reporters of his season-high point total. “I’m not going into games trying to get 30 points. I’m taking whatever the defense is giving me.”
Los Angeles trailed 92-91 with about five minutes left, but Denver went ice cold at the Staples Center and were held without a point over a four-minute stretch where the Clippers (20-11) outscored them 8-0.
The Clippers’ Blake Griffin, who will take part in this weekend’s All Star festivities but will not defend his Slam Dunk Contest title, had 27 points and 12 rebounds to help repel Denver.
“That’s my one day off to spend time with my family,” said Griffin, who will play in Friday’s Rising Stars Challenge as well as the main event on Sunday with team mate Paul.
“We’ve been alright (over the first half of the season), but we can be a lot better.”
While Griffin and Paul scored the points, DeAndre Jordan manned the lane for Los Angeles with 10 points, 16 rebounds and three blocks.
The Nuggets (18-16) have been hit hard by injuries and were without key players Nene, Rudy Fernandez, Danilo Gallinari and Ty Lawson.
Arron Afflalo led Denver with 20 points and Jordan Hamilton had 18 as Denver lost for the fourth time in five games.
Before the game, Nuggets coach George Karl said that Nene and Gallinari may return shortly after the All Star break, providing a much needed boost for the side who have fallen into a tie with Portland for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.