With leading scorer Eric Gordon back in Los Angeles and out for at least three weeks, Blake Griffin knew the Clippers needed him more than ever. And when their 15-point lead over the Dallas Mavericks turned into a deficit late in the third quarter, Griffin took off in search of a highlight-reel basket to energize a rally.
He wound up hitting the floor -- hard. Hard enough to draw a technical foul against Brendan Haywood, hard enough to leave Griffin needing a big ice pack on his left elbow after the game and hard enough to provide the energy boost Dallas needed to finish off a 112-105 victory Tuesday night.
Jason Terry scored a season-high 28 points and fellow reserve guard J.J. Barea added 25 as the Mavericks scored their most points of the season. Tyson Chandler added a season-high 21 and Dirk Nowitzki had 20, marking the first time in two years that Dallas had four players crack 20 points.
Yet the offensive exploits were overshadowed by the way the defense dominated the second half, epitomized by Haywood's violent takedown of Griffin.
The Mavericks had just gone on a 23-6 spurt to go ahead for the first time. They were up by four when Griffin blew past Haywood on his way to the rim for a spectacular finish. He didn't make it because Haywood reached out with both hands, got hold of his dangling left arm and jerked him down before he got too far off the ground.
"Every play can't be a dunk-contest dunk," Haywood said.
Griffin played the remaining 42.5 seconds of the third quarter, even making a 21-foot jumper. Then he missed the start of the fourth quarter while getting a protective sleeve on his arm. He returned with the Mavericks in the midst of a 14-0 run that sealed their third win in four games since stopping a six-game losing streak.
Griffin finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds. However, he had 12 of those points in the first quarter.
"Obviously I could have done better," Griffin said. "I'll watch the film and get better from it."
As for the damage to his elbow, he said, "After that flagrant foul it started hurting. We'll see how it is tomorrow."
Gordon is expected to miss 3-4 weeks because of a sprained right wrist, which also has a chipped bone. He's averaging 24.1 points, eighth-best in the NBA.
The Clippers started the game looking like they wouldn't even miss him.
They scored 62 points by halftime, making 68 percent of their shots. But then the Mavs changed everything and Los Angeles couldn't recover. The Clippers scored 43 points and made 44 percent of their shots in the second half, padding by some baskets after the outcome was pretty much determined.
"They were all over us and got into us in the first half, pushed us around a little bit," Nowitzki said. "In the second half ,we were the more aggressive team. That's how it is in this league, usually. The team that's more aggressive gets more calls, gets the benefit of the doubt. They were the team that got the benefit of the doubt in the first half, then we turned it around in the second."
The fourth quarter also was spiced up by an exchange of words between Clippers guard Baron Davis and Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle.
Davis knocked over Barea with a pair of forearm shoves on his way up the court. Davis didn't like Barea going down on the second one, and Carlisle didn't like everything about what Davis did and said. Offsetting technical fouls were issued.
Davis scored 21. Randy Foye, who started in Gordon's place, scored 15 and Ryan Gomes added 14.
Nowitzki, who is still getting over a knee injury, was cut on his face in the first quarter and didn't have a basket until the final 2 minutes of the first half. He got rolling after that, though, finishing with some long jumpers during the final breakaway rally.
Terry scored 22 of his points in the second half. He finished 11 of 22, including 4 of 7 on 3-pointers.
Barea scored 14 of his points in the second quarter. He finished 9 of 12, and 3 of 4 on 3-pointers.
For the Mavericks, this was a great way to start a four-game homestand. It also was a nice welcome for their newest player, Peja Stojakovic. He watched from the bench in jeans and had to go from wondering what was wrong with the club to wondering why they need him.
NOTES: Chandler hadn't cracked 20 points in three years. ... Dallas made eight baskets in the second quarter. Barea hit the first five, then Nowitzki hit the last three. Dallas' only other scorer in the period was Chandler, with four free throws. ... Los Angeles' 62 points at halftime was the most by a Mavs foe this season. ... Dallas' 63 bench points are fifth-most in the NBA this season.