MILWAUKEE — Entering the final stop on a 12-day, seven-game road trip, the red-hot Los Angeles Clippers were not going to be lulled into complacency by a team with the worst record in the NBA.
Instead, the Clippers (32-15) wrapped up their annual Grammy Award-induced trip with a exclamation point, drubbing the Bucks 114-86 at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.
“We all said this was going to be the hardest game,” Clippers guard Jamal Crawford said. “It was good to close this out the right way.”
Crawford led the Clippers with 25 points, including five 3-pointers off the bench, and forward Blake Griffin added 20, with 11 points coming in the second quarter when he made 5 of 6 shots from the field.
“The way Blake is playing down there, they (have) to double-team him and it allows all our shooters to get good, clean looks,” Crawford said.
Guard J.J. Redick added 14 points and guard Willie Green had 13 for the Clippers, who shot 54.4 percent from the field and made 14 of 28 3-pointers while holding Milwaukee to 38 percent shooting from the floor.
“It really was defense,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “The end of the first, beginning of second, our second unit actually, started getting stops. With our offense, we are going to keep scoring. I thought that was the stretch that changed the game for us. The last nine minutes of the second quarter changed the game.”
Milwaukee got off to a decent start, hitting 11 of 22 from the field in the first quarter and opened the second with a 7-0 run to cut the deficit to 34-32 on forward Khris Middleton’s 18-footer with 9:58 remaining. But Los Angeles responded with a 23-4 run in the next 8:25 and took a 64-41 lead into halftime.
“We got down but fought back and got within two,” Bucks coach Larry Drew said. “But we came out, missed a couple of shots and turned the ball over.
“Our margin for error is really small, particularly against really good teams.”
Drew had just nine healthy bodies available, making things all the more difficult against the Clippers, who had won three of four coming into the game and are fourth in the Western Conference playoff hunt.
“They’re unbelievable,” Bucks forward Caron Butler said. “They’re contenders. They’re playing great basketball and one of their best players isn’t even out there yet. They’re only going to get better when Chris Paul returns.”
Middleton led Milwaukee (8-36) with 16 points and forward Ersan Ilyasova had 14. Centers John Henson and Miroslav Raduljica and Butler each finished with 11.
“I think we responded well,” Henson said. “It’s just something that happens. You can’t overlook the fact that we were missing two key players. That kind of hurt us a little bit, but that’s not an excuse. We’ve got to be better.”
After trailing by as many as 33 on Saturday in a 25-point loss to Atlanta, Drew called out his team’s lack of effort in a 20-minute, closed-door meeting.
Milwaukee fell behind by as many as 39 on Monday, but Drew had no issue with the Bucks’ preparation.
“I thought we came out and we played with our energy,” Drew said. “It just seems like we go through a situation where we fall out of a little steam and when you do that against a team like the Clippers, they’ll make you pay for it.”
Milwaukee has lost three in a row and 15 of its last 17, dropping to 1-14 against Western Conference teams this season. The only win came against the Los Angeles Lakers on Dec. 31.
NOTES: Bucks Gs O.J. Mayo and Gary Neal and C Larry Sanders were all out because of flu-like symptoms, and C Epke Udoh missed his second straight game because of his left ankle. … Los Angeles PG Chris Paul (separated shoulder) was able to shoot during a pregame workout but missed his 12th straight game. Clippers coach Doc Rivers said there is no firm timetable on Paul’s return. … Bucks F Caron Butler spent the previous two seasons with the Clippers, averaging 11.1 points and 3.2 rebounds in 141 games. … Through the first seven games of Los Angeles’ annual Grammy Awards road trip, F Jamal Crawford is averaging 25.4 points per game. … Three of the Bucks’ last five losses have been by at least 25 points and they’ve lost 20 times this season by 10 points or more.
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