|Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin dunks during the first half of their NBA basketball game against the Sacramento Kings, Saturday, April 7, 2012, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)|
Clippers blast Kings for 8th win in 9 games
LOS ANGELES—Blake Griffin had 27 points and 14 rebounds, Randy Foye scored 25 points while hitting seven 3-pointers, and the surging Los Angeles Clippers moved within a half-game of the Pacific Division lead with a 109-94 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Saturday night.
Chris Paul had 19 points and 15 assists in the Clippers' eighth win in nine games overall and their second in three days over the Kings, sweeping the season series with their California rivals. The Clippers (34-22) are right behind the Lakers (35-22), who lost at Phoenix, for the division lead and the No. 3 playoff seed.
DeMarcus Cousins had 15 points and 20 rebounds after stoking a feud with pointedly critical comments about Griffin this week. Tyreke Evans and Travis Outlaw scored 14 points apiece and Francisco Garcia added 13 before leaving with an apparent head injury for the Kings, who have lost eight of 10.
Caron Butler scored 12 points for the Clippers, who never trailed after the opening minutes. While Paul and Griffin had their usual productive games, Foye had another spectacular perimeter performance after tying the franchise record with eight 3-pointers at Dallas last Monday.
After allowing their 14-point lead to dwindle to one late in the third quarter, the Clippers took control with a 20-7 run capped by back-to-back spectacular dunks. After Griffin reached well behind his head to grab an alley-oop pass from Eric Bledsoe for a one-handed slam, the 6-foot-1 Bledsoe added his own dunk on a pass off the backboard from Paul.
Bledsoe had eight points and nine assists for the Clippers, who scored 34 points in less than eight minutes in the fourth quarter.
Marcus Thornton, the Kings' leading scorer, missed his third straight game with a bruised left leg.
Griffin and Cousins exchanged a perfunctory pregame fist-bump and nothing else after their burgeoning rivalry commanded national headlines in recent days. Cousins was fined $25,000 by the NBA on Friday for criticizing officials -- specifically for the way they call games featuring Griffin, the former No. 1 draft pick and electrifying dunker.
After struggling with foul trouble throughout Sacramento's home loss to the Clippers on Thursday night, Cousins said Griffin was an "actor" who should be at home in Hollywood, claiming referees treat the two-time All-Star differently.
Griffin, the NBA's 11th-leading scorer and sixth-leading rebounder, and Cousins declined to talk about the criticism before the game, while their coaches saw nothing unhealthy about a little rivalry between power forwards.
"It's just two big guys playing an aggressive style of play, and I'm glad that the officials allowed them to play," Sacramento coach Keith Smart said. "I saw young, big guys who are going to be going at it for years, and they didn't lose their composure. They stayed in the confines of the game, and hopefully that doesn't move to anything else."
Griffin made one of the most spectacular shots of his highlight-strewn career late in the third quarter when Donte Greene flagrantly fouled him to stop a breakaway chance. Griffin threw the ball backward over his opposite shoulder while spinning facedown to the floor and facing away from the hoop -- and the shot went in, but didn't count when the officials huddled and ruled against continuation.
Garcia went to the locker room early in the fourth after staying down on the court for several minutes when Bobby Simmons accidentally clipped him in the head while fighting for a loose ball.
NOTES: The Clippers' only loss since March 22 was last Wednesday to the Lakers, who hold the head-to-head tiebreaker edge. ... Clippers G Mo Williams sat out his ninth straight game with a bruised toe. His return is expected imminently. ... Kings F Chuck Hayes sat out with an apparent case of food poisoning, and Evans jammed his right big toe late in the third quarter, but returned. ... Billy Crystal and Kings co-owners Phil and Adrienne Maloof attended the game.