The Charlotte Bobcats held Los Angeles Clippers star Blake Griffin to one fourth-quarter point and 0-of-4 shooting from the field to preserve a 95-91 victory at Time Warner Cable Arena on Wednesday night.
The Bobcats improved to 19-25 in what was probably the most impressive performance of the season. Center Al Jefferson finished with 24 points and 10 rebounds. Griffin had 27 points and seven rebounds for the Clippers (29-15).
Jefferson beat the shot clock with a 20-foot jump shot at the top of the key to give the Bobcats a three-point lead with about four minutes left. With 11/2 minutes left, the Clippers again posted up Griffin. Bobcats point guard Ramon Sessions doubled, digging the ball out of Griffin’s hands for a turnover.
Jamal Crawford hit a jumper for the Clippers with a minute left to tie the game at 89. Both teams traded empty possessions, giving the Bobcats the ball back with about 30 seconds left. Sessions missed a tear-drop, but the ball landed in teammate Gerald Henderson’s hands, wide open under the basket for a dunk with 22 seconds left.
On the Clippers’ ensuing possession Crawford missed a drive and Griffin missed a follow-up. Crawford fouled, sending Josh McRoberts to the line with 13 seconds left, up two. McRoberts hit both for the four-point lead.
The Bobcats entered the final quarter up 72-70 after Chris Douglas-Roberts beat the buzzer with an alley-oop pass. Griffin continued his torrid scoring, making five of six third-quarter shots for 11 points. Jefferson just about matched him, scoring eight points on 4-of-4 shooting.
With various Bobcats struggling to match up defensively against Blake, Anthony Tolliver had some brief success, taking a charge just outside the restricted area. Griffin, Tolliver and Bobcats center Bismack Biyombo all toppled to the floor, with Blake getting the offensive foul.
The Bobcats trailed at halftime 49-48 after leading by as much as eight points. The biggest problem was finding someone who could guard Griffin in the post.
With point guard Chris Paul out with a separated shoulder, Clippers coach Doc Rivers posted up Griffin constantly. McRoberts, Cody Zeller and Jefferson each took a turn guarding him, to no avail. Griffin scored 15 first-half points off 6-of-10 shots from the field.
Two other Clippers – J.J. Redick and Crawford – had 10 and 11 points respectively.
While the Bobcats had little success defensively before halftime, they shot 50 percent from the field. Jefferson continued his offensive tear of late, making six of 13 shots for 12 first-half points. No other Bobcat had more than seven points in the first half.
The Bobcats were successful early in forcing turnovers, as the Clippers gave the ball away four times in the first 51/2 minutes. After making nine of 16 3s against the Toronto Raptors on Monday, the Bobcats hit two of seven attempts from long range in the first half Wednesday.
With the Bobcats having to pay so much attention to Griffin in the post, Redick got several wide-open looks from the perimeter, making five of eight from the field. Crawford also got hot, making four of his first seven shots.
The Bobcats usually get to the foul line a lot, but neither team did in the first half – there were 11 total free throws.
The Bobcats will play at the New York Knicks on Friday, with a chance to clinch the season series 3-1 and settle a tiebreaker in their favor. They come home after that game for a Saturday matchup with the Chicago Bulls.
Bonnell: 704-358-5129; Twitter: @rick_bonnell