Published March 27, 2012
| Associated Press
LOS ANGELES – Chris Paul had 25 points and 10 assists against his former team, leading the Los Angeles Clippers to a 97-85 win over the New Orleans Hornets on Monday night.
The Hornets first tried to trade Paul to the Lakers — a deal that was rejected by the league — before shipping the All-Star point guard to the Clippers shortly after the lockout ended.
Blake Griffin added 20 points and seven rebounds to help the Clippers climb within two games of the Pacific Division-leading Lakers.
Al-Farouq Aminu scored 15 points, and Carl Landry added 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Hornets, who didn't have a player in double digits until Landry's two free throws trimmed Los Angeles' lead to 66-52 with 2:21 left in the third quarter.
New Orleans committed a season-high 29 turnovers, leading to 35 points for the Clippers.
Clippers reserve point guard Mo Williams missed his second game because of a sore big toe on his left foot, and is expected to be out at least another two weeks after getting it examined by a specialist Saturday.
The Hornets were without 7-footer Jason Smith, who completed the two-game suspension he received from the league after his flagrant foul against Griffin at New Orleans.
Griffin exacted a measure of payback on the Hornets, committing a flagrant 1 foul on Trevor Ariza as he attempted a driving layup with 7:07 left in the third quarter. Ariza said something to Griffin and ended up with a technical foul. Paul made the technical free throw, Ariza made both of his following the flagrant, and when the dust cleared, the Clippers had a 55-44 lead.
Griffin also got a technical from referee Pat Fraher after picking up his fourth personal foul with 9:29 left and the Clippers ahead by 23 points. After both coaches emptied their benches, the Hornets went on a 13-0 run that narrowed the gap to 90-76 with 3:50 to play, forcing Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro to put Paul and Randy Foye back in.
The Clippers hosted the Hornets for the first time since the Dec. 14 trade that brought Paul from New Orleans to Los Angeles in exchange for center Chris Kaman, guard Eric Gordon and Aminu. But the only member of that trio in uniform for the homecoming was Aminu, who was the fourth player off the bench and made seven of eight shots in 25 minutes.
Kaman, who had 20 points and 10 rebounds in the Hornets' 97-90 victory last Thursday, was too sick to play in the rematch after missing Saturday's 89-86 home loss against San Antonio. Gordon, who hit a game-winning jumper with 4.2 seconds left in an 85-84 victory at Phoenix on opening night, has played in only two games all season due to a bruised right knee.
Hornets center Emeka Okafor also missed his 22nd straight game because of a sore left knee.
The absence of Okafor, Smith and Kaman was felt right away by the Hornets, as the Clippers opened the game with an 18-2 run that included a 17-footer and an 11-foot pull-up jumper by Paul 58 seconds apart.
New Orleans quickly erased that 16-point deficit with a 14-3 run, capped by a layup by Xavier Henry that tied the score at 28. But they never did take the lead, and the Clippers built their margin to as many as 27 with 7:19 left in the fourth quarter.
Notes: Paul made nine of 17 shots. ... A fan behind the visiting bench was ejected after throwing a peanut that struck Williams during a timeout with 8:08 left in the second quarter. ... Clippers reserve G Eric Bledsoe, who entered the NBA draft in 2010 after his freshman year at Kentucky, is thrilled about his school's second straight trip to the Final Four and will keep up with Saturday's game against Louisville as much as humanly possible. "I'm really excited for them," he said. "They've done a real good job of not letting up. They've been blowing every team out that they're played so far, so I just want them to keep it going. They shouldn't worry too much about what Louisville is going to do — just keep doing what they've been doing all season, which is playing defense."