Clippers center DeAndre Jordan rejects a shot by 76ers guard Michael Carter-Williams in the first half Sunday. (Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)
Los Angeles — Blake Griffin had 26 points, 11 rebounds and six assists, and the Los Angeles Clippers stormed out to a 31-point lead in the first quarter with Chris Paul back in the lineup and pummeled the Philadelphia 76ers, 123-78, on Sunday night.
Jamal Crawford scored 21 for the defending Pacific Division champions, who were 12-6 while Paul was sidelined with a separated right shoulder that occurred on Jan. 3 at Dallas. The seven-time All-Star point guard had seven points and eight assists in 23 minutes.
DeAndre Jordan had 20 rebounds and 10 points, helping Los Angeles increase its division lead over idle Phoenix to four games.
Reserve Tony Wroten scored 21 points for the 76ers, losers of six straight and 13 of 16. Center Spencer Hawes missed all eight shots in 23 scoreless minutes and had just two rebounds.
The 45-point margin of victory was the largest for the Clippers’ franchise. The previous record was 39, set in a 121-82 victory over Chicago at Staples Center on Nov. 24.
Paul’s return provided an instant spark, as the Clippers opened the game with a 13-0 run that included a pair of 3-pointers by Crawford off Philadelphia turnovers. They widened the gap to 30-5 while the 76ers missed 17 of their first 19 shots.
Griffin limped to the dressing room with a bruised left shin after Wroten fell into him on a foul by Jordan with less 3 minutes left in the opening period.
But the four-time All-Star returned to the bench before the team’s highest-scoring quarter of the season ended, and Willie Green put an exclamation point on it with a 3 from the left corner to give Los Angeles a 46-15 cushion.
Griffin and teammate Antawn Jamison shared a laugh on the bench as Wroten went to the foul line, trying to cut into a 54-17 deficit about 3 minutes into the second quarter. By then, it hardly seemed to matter to the sellout crowd that Clippers starting forward J.J. Redick missed his third straight game with a sore right hip. It was a laugher the whole way.
Griffin showed no hint of any ankle issues after that — particularly during a Showtime-like sequence in the second quarter. Paul went in alone on a fast break with Griffin trailing the play, then bounced the ball off the glass and Griffin sent the crowd into a frenzy with the first of back-to-back windmill dunks 27 seconds apart. That made it 60-21 with 4:46 left in the first half.
Philadelphia never challenged after the Clippers built a 69-30 halftime lead — matching the largest halftime advantage in franchise history set in November against Chicago. Crawford’s 15-footer gave the Clippers their biggest lead, 89-33, with 6:01 left in the third quarter. It was 100-51 going into the fourth.
Before Sunday, the Clippers had never beaten Philadelphia by more than 29 points since the franchises began playing each other in 1970-71. That was on March 20, 2013 (101-72). They have won the last five meetings, their longest streak against the Sixers since a franchise-best seven-gamer from Jan. 22, 1974 through Nov. 26, 1974, when they were the Buffalo Braves.
Cavs GM confident in future
Cleveland Cavaliers acting general manager David Griffin acknowledged his team has had an adversity-filled season, but believes something positive can be salvaged in the final two months.
Griffin was promoted from vice president of basketball operations Thursday when Chris Grant, the general manager since 2010, was fired. The 44-year-old Griffin, who has spent 21 years in the NBA in various front-office capacities, addressed the media prior to Sunday’s game against Memphis.
The Cavaliers began the season with postseason expectations, but are 18-33 and sit 11th in the weak Eastern Conference, four games out of the final playoff spot. Cleveland, which broke a six-game losing streak by beating Washington on Friday night, has lost eight of its last 11.
“Certainly, it’s a great deal of adversity right now and from that, quite frankly, I think come the greatest opportunities,” said Griffin, who joined the franchise in 2010. “Sure, this isn’t an easy situation. I’d be lying if I said it was. I can promise you this, it’s one I’m very prepared for.”